Get it Right: Your NextGen 5.9/8.4 Upgrade
JOHN O’KEEFE  | February 28, 2018

Get it Right: Your NextGen 5.9/8.4 Upgrade


“Your practice needs to upgrade its EHR.” No words cause more fear for staff who are already overwhelmed with the work of treating patients and managing operations.

In addition to completing an upgrade which can bring your facility to a screeching halt, there’s the challenge of staff learning to use the new version, which often requires changes to established workflows. And users must rigorously test the system to make sure that the upgrade doesn’t negatively impact their daily work.

Forget Workarounds – Make It Work Right Now

We tell patients to focus on prevention and avoid procrastination. We stress the importance of regular check-ups and adhering to strict regimens of activity or medication. Yet, when it comes to the health of our practices, we don’t always follow our own advice. In healthcare technology, as in life, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.

But change is hard. And for this reason, many practices consciously decide not to upgrade. While the approach of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” might seem like the easier path, it’s not a sound one. Today practices face a constant stream of new regulatory requirements and reporting that must be completed to demonstrate compliance. Some practices try workarounds, but usually end up failing to meet requirements which just creates more issues.

In addition to staying current with new regulations, upgrading ensures that you are taking advantage of the latest functionality – as well as bug fixes – to help your practice operate at maximum speed and efficiency. While it may be painful to learn the new features, they are designed to help alleviate burdens on your staff and increase productivity, enabling better patient care.

Simplified NextGen 5.9/8.4

Many practices are considering an upgrade to NextGen 5.9/8.4. The new version offers important benefits including MIPS certification, streamlined access to patient data, and automated changes to e-prescriptions. This is an upgrade every practice should do as soon as possible to take advantage of new features that will help staff work more efficiently, in addition to demonstrating Stage 3 Meaningful Use.

Fortunately, NextGen has streamlined the upgrade process, enabling practices to upgrade the version and knowledge-based model (KBM) at the same time. Previously, each environment upgraded separately which essentially doubled the effort, time and cost.  The combined upgrade takes a bit longer to complete, but it’s a simpler process and a better experience.

Don’t Go it Alone

While NextGen’s new upgrade concept is a positive step forward, it is still a complex project. It’s important to get it right the first time to avoid additional downtime and patient care disruption. This is why I always recommend that practices use a trusted partner to help with upgrades. Getting expert help will ensure that the upgrade is done right the first time. Equally as important, it allows your busy staff to stay focused on patients instead of trying to manage a challenging upgrade on top of their day job.

Select Your Partner Carefully

What should you look for in an upgrade partner?

  • Make sure they can demonstrate expertise and experience in the specific technology and upgrade that you need. For example, can they give you educational materials – like online guides and videos –to explain what’s in the new version and how the features can help your practice? Are they certified by the vendor to provide upgrade support?
  • Ensure that your partner can document successes they’ve had with other practices. Ask for references and check them out to verify their reputation and track record.
  • Find a partner that offers end-to-end services that enable your practice to get the most out of the new technology. ITelagen offers complete NextGen upgrade support including project management, workflow gap analysis, hands-on reconfiguration, staff training and go-live support.

Finally, do not select a partner that allows you to be complacent or uninvolved. A true partner will work with you to set goals that hold both parties accountable throughout the entire process. And they will continually monitor progress to stay on track.

Test, Test and Test Again

When it comes to upgrading, the biggest mistake I see is a lack of proper testing. Even when you use a partner to help with the upgrade, each person in your practice must test their own processes. Only your people know the intricacies of their daily work – they must take an active role in testing and identifying issues. Your partner should require you to sign off and ensure that everything has been tested and is functioning the way you want it to.

The most important thing to remember is that technology upgrades are crucial to your practice success. The investment will pay for itself many times over by keeping you away from dangers, crashes and pitfalls. It can help you avoid hefty fines, unnecessary risk, reputational damage, billing headaches and reimbursement delays. It will improve your ability to deliver the highest quality patient care. There is no reason to avoid or dread it.

Here at ITelagen, we have years of experience helping practices minimize the pain of an upgrade. In fact, we can turn it into a positive experience that enables your practice to operate at even higher levels and achieve better outcomes. Our mission is to help practices like yours be more successful through healthcare technology. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help with your next upgrade.