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Choosing a project manager for EHR implementation

May 14, 2023

Your current electronic health record (EHR) system or electronic medical record (EMR) is antiquated. The hospital board has just approved the purchase of a brand-new one. Now what?

You know that this is a huge undertaking for your organization, requiring dedicated project management, but as the leader, you find your mind spinning. Short on resources? Too many concurrent projects? Not enough bandwidth?

Given these challenges, many organizations would look to an outside consultant to manage the project. Choosing a good EMR implementation project manager (PM) can be a daunting task, but when your system is converted, you’ll reap the rewards.

The PM must have the right traits, skills and experience to make sure the project stays on track and is at or under budget.

Here is what to look for in a good PM.

Keeper of project stages

The PM must understand the EMR’s implementation methodology. Most EMR implementations go through roughly the same phases: gathering data, building the system, training your super-users, educating the end users and executing conversion. The methodology is a chess game — the PM thinks one step ahead.

Timeline manager

The PM constantly manages the timeline. First, they work with all project stakeholders to understand and schedule the project’s major events and critical milestones. Then, they ensure the schedule avoids holidays and factor in time for vacations, logistical challenges and emergencies, which will always arise. Once the timeline is established, they manage tasks to keep on schedule.

Scope specialist

Knowing the statement of work and the project scope is a must for the PM. At multiple times during the project, they’ll have to know what the signed contract includes and excludes. They should keep this document handy, and be prepared to speak up if the project team makes incorrect assumptions or deviates from the defined scope.

Definer of roles

Early on, the PM helps define the project’s key stakeholders. When everyone has a shared understanding of their roles and responsibilities at the outset, a project goes much smoother. Will you set up a project steering committee as the ultimate decision-makers? Who will be your executive sponsor? Who are your subject matter experts and super-users?

There are decision-makers and there are influencers. You can count on the PM to understand the difference and have the correct people at meetings, which is crucial for project success.

Meeting manager

And there will be numerous meetings and calls, ranging from the department level to project-wide, sometimes occurring at the same time. These calls may involve data gathering, training, competencies and even integrated decision-making. The PM keeps tabs on the progress of each project area to understand the purpose of the meetings and prioritize them accordingly. Excellent PMs also listen actively for issues, escalations, outstanding questions and announced due dates, and have an organized method to keep synthesize and track those items across meetings.


Ever had a topic come up in a meeting and had participants wish they had a record of that? A good PM will always document, document, document. An easy PM task involves asking for basic notes, like meeting agendas and minutes. Nudging stakeholders about these keeps people engaged, prepared and on task. Additionally, documentation helps when you need to refer back to decisions made and know deliverable due dates. The PM should ask for these items for all department-level conversations and project-management-level discussions.


Successful PMs come organized. Keeping track of deliverables, ownership, due dates and notes can be a difficult task. Some PMs set reminders in Outlook to circle back on deliverables, outstanding tasks and incomplete action items. Figuring out a simple tracking method is key for a PM. Here is an example:

Upcoming/delinquent deliverables Solution Deliverable location on project portal 1st ask 2nd ask Vendor associate Client owner
Surgery data collection workbook Surgery /hospital_x/surgery/workbook 1/1/23 2/1/23 Adam Eve
Lab compendium Lab /clinic_y/lab/compendium 1/1/23 2/1/23 Batman Robin

Active listener

A good PM will be an active listener, deciphering your pain points and translating them to the project team. They can hear statements like, “I wish I had more of …,” or “If only I had x, y or z …” or “To make things easier, we should …” and determine what action steps could be incorporated into the project to fill those gaps.

Gentle encourager

Being “pleasantly persistent” is like walking a tightrope. A good PM must know how and when to communicate. Follow up, follow up and follow up again.

Email is not the only form of communication. A PM should figure out each person’s preferred communication medium — whether that’s phone, text, instant message or even through an assistant. Beyond the immediate project team, a PM should have a bigger view of communication as well. How does messaging differ with end users versus super-users? When should your organization communicate to a broader audience? Your patient population? The community? The board? It’s good to keep internal and external stakeholders informed about the project. In this context, there is no such thing as overcommunication.

Strategic fighter

Throughout the course of the project, there will be successes and challenges. The “Rocky” movie quote rings true here: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get back up.” Tense conversations will always happen during the project; it’s how the PM handles them that distinguishes a leader. A successful PM sticks to the facts, knows what battles to fight and always advocates for your organization. They pay attention to contentious meetings, accusatory emails and personality conflicts and bring them to the steering committee as quickly as possible.

The complete package

A successful PM always thinks of their client, representing the eyes and ears of the project. A good PM will be organized, communicate with both the C-suite and end users, be pleasantly persistent, document along the way, handle challenging situations and lead your organization to a finished project that is on time and at or under budget.

How Wipfli can help

Our EHR team is ready to help you manage your entire EHR system. From selection to implementation and oversight, our experienced team is ready to help. Learn more on our EHR web page.


David Hersch, MBA
Senior Manager
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Nicholas Thate
Manager, Healthcare
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