Kristin Walker has been working within the health care field for more than two decades. She started out in medical billing for an Urgent Care center in Southern California. Then she worked as the Financial Manager for a dental practice in Oklahoma. She quickly became the go-to person on staff for any software issues. During her time working in the dental industry she was hired by a practice management firm to help private practices with the business side of their organizations. This experience launched her career as an industry consultant. Kristin also deepened her skills in the database software world and began working with many different organizations—from small businesses to Fortune 1000 companies, to set up in-house software to organize and run their corporate communications, sales, and marketing.
I was recently asked to describe the moment when I stopped selling electronic health record (EHR) software and truly became an advocate for providers in the world of behavioral health and record cycle management. How had this happened? Why?
Doing research for my organization, something important had become apparent: The behavioral healthcare market is not the most profitable of healthcare markets, and nor is it likely to become so. As a matter of fact many EHR vendors avoid serving this community entirely. And, although there may be many reasons for this, one obvious factor is that public mental and behavioral health patients are among the poorest of patient communities. Behavioral health providers receive some of the lowest in insurance reimbursements. In addition to these facts, mental health advocates find that the rules and regulations they must follow are stringent and highly-regulated.
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When looking for innovative solutions to challenges associated with managing a mental or behavioral healthcare practice, we know that asking the ‘right’ questions often leads to solutions unthought-of before. These not only address immediate concerns, but propel our practices into the future we want for ourselves and our clients.
Finding the best Mental Health EHR for your practice is a journey that can begin as simply as What? Why? and, most importantly, How?
- What challenges does our practice face that can be addressed by an EHR?
- What needs aren’t being met within our practice that could be met with an EHR?
- What haven’t I thought of when considering what I want an EHR to do for our practice that might make a difference?
- Why have we continued to use our current information and record keeping systems as long as we have?
- Why have we hesitated from adopting an EHR up until now?
- Why haven’t we stepped up to these challenges and incorporated new policies that will address some of the needs of our organization?
- How can we graduate from our current EHR that may have done an okay job of getting us off of paper, but is now crippling productivity and staff moral?
- How can we make a case for moving to a better behavioral health EHR?
Care of the Caregiver: Juggling Care, Self-Care, Paperwork. Can a Behavioral Health EHR Help or Hurt?
Juggling…with One Hand Behind Our Back!
Providers are constantly building upon their understanding of the struggles that their clients face. New developments lead the way as practices consider and reconsider the effectiveness of their programs. Often they are working with hands tied by bureaucracy and by the limited availability of resources, and the limited time they have with their clients.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. This is what it is like for many behavioral health practices. They continue using an EHR that cannot help them and could be hurting their practice. Change is difficult especially when you have invested time, money, and energy into one of the biggest financial decisions your practice will make. I know this from personal experience and so do my providers.
“When you’re the only sane person, you look like the only insane person.” ―Criss Jami
It is fast becoming imperative for all mental health providers to use electronic health records. Our clients have been with us for years. We handle their back office. We make sure they get paid and their practice grows. Of course they came to us with that all important question: Which EHR should we choose? We did what so many behavioral health organizations have done and jumped in headfirst with an EHR without properly testing the product or the company behind it. Ouch.
Although she is a librarian by profession, Ms. Wanden’s graduate degree uses the modern terminology of “information scientist”. After working in an administrative position for the 40th Military Police Battalion, in Khorat, Thailand, in her early twenties she returned to California and enjoyed a successful nineteen year career at the Fullerton College Library. For the next two decades she was a User Coordinator, Trainer, Metadata Specialist, a Library Analyst, and retired in 2009 as the Field Training and Education Manager for the U.S. region at OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (http://www.oclc.org). OCLC is a global non-profit, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs.
At OCLC Ms. Wanden represented a powerful, cloud-based infrastructure that provides system-wide intelligence and cooperative platforms. She frequently gave workshops and conference presentations to the west coast members of its network of 16,737 libraries, archives and museums in 170 countries. She also consulted with managers about the most cost-effective use of technology and best practices in metadata operations working with clients like as the University of Southern California, Seattle University, University of Hawaii, Hilo, Alameda (CA) County Public Library, Bellingham (WA) Public Library, and the Oakland Public Library.
Joy has a publishing record as well, starting out in 1998 by designing, coding and then serving as a long-time editor of the web journal, Associates: the Electronic Library Support Staff Journal at http://associates.ucr.edu/journal/. She also published several print journal articles, such as “Restructuring The Classification of Library Paraprofessionals”, in Library Mosaics, “Industrializing the Work Flow: New Trends in Technical Services”, in the Oregon Library Association Quarterly, where she was guest editor, “Your One-Stop Guide for Planning a Workshop”, for the Council on Library/Media Technicians, and “Alternative Education Options for Library Staff”, in the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science.
Her activist roots and volunteer spirit run deep: at the College she was elected President of the local chapter of the California School Employee Association, she volunteered as a sign language interpreter for the deaf, and contributed her editing expertise to non-profit organizations serving the behavioral health industry since the 1980’s. One of her proudest writing and editing experiences was as one of the editors of Beyond Survival, a magazine devoted to information about victims of childhood sexual abuse.
She is currently serving as the Chief Financial Officer for everythingEHR. Joy is the head of our Non-Profit and Academic Advisory division working with colleges and universities to educate the next generation of mental health providers and our not-for-profit behavioral health organizations.
Have questions for Joy?
Rightly so…as students and professionals within mental and behavioral healthcare have plenty enough to think about without spending disproportionate time: tracking clinical hours, charting and completing analysis, compiling data into graphs and reports, following up with supervisors, meeting professional and student guidelines, and keeping client data clearly organized.
The process can seem never ending.
Here at everythingEHR we know how important and challenging it can be to track clinical hours and store data with software while managing your practicum and curriculum requirements. We also know how a clunky system – whether in school or the workplace – can eat hours of your day and deter you from what you truly love to do.
As advocates for agencies who manage valuable patient information we are asked daily which EHR a behavioral health provider should choose. Buzz words are often thrown around such as “cloud-based” and “web-access”, which for many still are intangible terms when it comes to record security and applicability.
More than a decade ago, engineers figured out ways for data and software to be distributed efficiently across several machines and their power pooled for collective use. In the simplest of terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of a computer’s hard drive. A cloud computing platform refers to the efficient management of systems and networks of data storage over the Internet. The term itself is an airy metaphor for systems of intelligently orchestrated global networks of millions of computers, harnessing, using, and then renting huge amounts of computing power. It no longer matters which servers are running a job or from where; it is just inside this “cloud” of machines.