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NextGen Enterprise Spring’21 Upgrade (v6.2021.1): What You Need to Know about New Features and Requirements

By Jessie Busch, MTS Director of Support Services

If your practice has been using the NextGen Enterprise EHR for a while, you know how stressful going through a major upgrade can be. After all, this mission-critical application runs your operations across the entire organization. You might be wondering how your employees will be affected and whether you need this upgrade.

The NextGen 6.2021 upgrade is a BIG release with a lot to unpack. Here are three things you need to know:

1- New Upgrade Meets Industry Regulatory Compliance

You’re probably familiar with the 21st Century Cures Act by now. This was signed into law in 2016 and has an impact on the entire healthcare industry.

One aspect of the act relates to information blocking, which is any practice that is likely to interfere with appropriate access, exchange, or use of electronic health information. Information blocking can lead to civil monetary penalties or disincentives, so it’s important to get it right. According to NextGen, this 6.2021 release is fully ready to support your compliance with new information blocking requirements.

The 6.2021.1 upgrade is also on track to meet the new ONC 2015 Edition Cures Update Criteria. The best EHR systems go through a rigorous process of certifying to meet the standards set by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). If your providers participate in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), you must upgrade to 6.2021 prior to your 2023 reporting period to meet requirements. While 2023 may sound like a far-off goal, there may be several time-consuming steps before you can complete your upgrade in production.

While 2023 may sound like a far-off goal, there may be several time-consuming steps before you can complete your upgrade in production.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Resources to help you perform your upgrade can be limited as the deadline approaches.

2 –Technical Requirements for NextGen Upgrade May Be Significant

Most organizations using the NextGen Enterprise EHR need this release to meet regulatory deadlines. But the 6.2021 upgrade is designed to support the latest operating systems (OSes). if you are running older OSes, upgrading your infrastructure must happen first before you can move forward on anything else. That means that, depending on your current systems, you could have a more complex – and expensive – upgrade process ahead of you.

NextGen recommends running Windows Server 2016 and 2019, and Windows 10. Lower-version OSes have not been through the QA testing process and may be unpredictable, which could lead to headaches for you down the road. If you’re still using a lower-version OS, you’ll need to plan to upgrade it prior to beginning your NextGen upgrade. Never upgrade your OS at the same time you upgrade your NextGen EHR.

NextGen also recommends running your database on Microsoft SQL Server 2019. You can also use 2017 and 2016 SP2, but for the best experience, stick with 2019. Lower versions of SQL Server do not support Java-Script Object Notation (JSON), so will not be compatible with 6.2021.

Careful planning and testing are key to any upgrade, including your operating systems, to ensure you aren’t giving your users a bad experience overnight.

These OS and database upgrades can also have unintended consequences, such as a need for updated server hardware. The expense and time involved in acquiring and deploying new datacenter hardware needs to be evaluated as soon as possible, especially with supply chain issues in the server market, which may continue for some time.

If you’ve been considering moving your EHR to the cloud, this might be the tipping point.

If you’ve been considering moving your EHR to the cloud, this might be the tipping point.

3 – Patient Experience Platform (PxP) Replaces NextMD.com Portal

Out with the old and in with the new! The NextGen Spring ’21 release is bringing in the new Patient Experience Platform (PxP). This new platform aims to give your patients a much more user-friendly experience so that you can attract and retain patients with a better web presence. The Patient Portal (NextMD.com) will no longer be supported on 6.2021 and higher.

NextGen has tested PxP on lower versions of its EHR and found organizations have the best experience on the new PxP when they implement it in conjunction with 6.2021 to support the latest features. You’ll need to install and migrate to this new product at the same time as your upgrade, so there is additional complexity as well as training requirements to consider as you plan your upgrade timeline.

Time Is Running Fast

If you haven’t started preparing for the NextGen 6.2021.1 upgrade yet, you need to start now. These types of upgrades can take several months of preparation and testing – or longer if your situation is more complex, as described here.

As you plan your timing, also consider how the upgrade of your EHR – the foundation of your organization’s processes – will affect your staff and providers. How will they be trained on the new features and who will train them?

MTS has resources to help. Our experts offer NextGen consulting and optimization services, extended NextGen and IT helpdesk service and support, as well as managed IT and secure cloud hosting services.