There are few planned tasks in the Healthcare IT community that generate more anxiety than upgrading to an enterprise-level application. This is especially the case for applications such as an interface engine or a health information system. In the case of the interface engine, the software is vital because it is often responsible for the expedient and precise filtering, routing, mapping, and delivery of patient data to all other applications in the organization.
The demands placed on a typical engine administrator or team of interface analysts can quickly become compounded and anxiety can quickly turn into panic if an upgrade does not go as planned and patient care is affected.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken in advance of an upgrade to help the team prepare for, and hopefully eliminate, any unplanned issues. In the case of an Interface Engine upgrade, here are five recommendations to take into consideration:
- Create backup files of all relevant data. This includes configuration settings, licenses, the original installer package (if still available), documentation, any relevant log files, and any persisted data that is queued for processing. Doing so will help ensure that, in the event the upgrade is aborted for any reason, all of the information required to revert to the original version of the application is still in place.
- Advise end-users of expected changes, and be prepared to provide training pre- and post upgrade, as needed. Depending on the scope of the changes that users will see after upgrade, it may be necessary to offer user training prior to the upgrade to ensure a smooth transition. If training is not available, or time-constraints do not allow for extensive user training, ensure that process documentation, as well as documentation on the new features, is available to the users.
- Provide an estimated down-time to end-users, network administrators, and everyone else affected by the interruption of service. The window of opportunity for successfully completing upgrades is often small enough without adding the time needed to respond to multiple user calls and emails advising you of their loss connectivity.
- Ensure all hardware, operating system, licensing, and configuration requirements are met before beginning the install, just as if this upgrade were a new install. Often, software upgrades will incorporate new functionality and feature sets that require more processing power, disk space, or licensing than the preceding installation, and you don’t want to wait until after the upgrade begins to discover that the new version of the application requires a particular component or a minimum level of resources that does not exist on the server.
- Solicit and discuss any organizational or workflow-specific requirements of extended functionality that was not available “out of the box.” Such custom accommodations that make it into an implementation may or may not function as expected after the upgrade is complete. If the product is not self-aware of such extensions, a comprehensive review of any available documentation, either generated by the application itself or written by an implementation engineer, is a great way to ensure that nothing is left to chance.
While the above steps are certainly not exhaustive, and will not apply to every application or upgrade in your environment, they hopefully serve to provide an example of the types of cross-departmental communication and internal documentation that can be critical to the success of your enterprise application upgrade.
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