Mental Health News Radio

Is your Behavioral Health EHR’s meaningful use certification meaningful?

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There are about 2,500 electronic health record systems. There are quite a few that specialize in behavioral health and others that cover just about any specialty but may include behavioral health. As a consultant to the EHR industry I have watched endless demos and received pricing that ranges from free to a sixty thousand dollar setup fee. Salespeople are a funny breed, especially those in the EHR industry. I spent about three years selling several EHR’s myself. What I found interesting is not what a consumer will find on Software Advice or Capterra. There is a lot of demo trickery, so buyer beware.

Because behavioral health is my great passion it makes sense that I would want to delve into the culture of an organization that created and sells a behavioral health EHR. What is the culture of their office? Why did they create an EHR and why was the not-so-profitable market of behavioral health their choice? Why did they choose to go through the rigorous task of Meaningful Use certification?

While the behavioral health market has a slice of the revenue pie when it comes to EHR’s it is in no way as profitable as, say, the family medicine market. Why should a behavioral health software company become meaningful use certified? Of the 991 vendors that achieved 2011 certification, only 6% have reached 2014 certification. Of those, only 10 to 15 companies have achieved ambulatory certification.

The behavioral health community is comprised of many types of organizations and many of them will not be able to meet the requirements in order to apply for stimulus funds. Why should they care about using an EHR that is Meaningful Use certified? It speaks to the longevity of a software vendor that they would go through the rigors of certification. But, amongst those that have passed, the potential for behavioral health providers to meet MU requirements utilizing their software is a very good question to pose to your potential behavioral health EHR vendors.

My hat is off to any EHR company that passes certification. It is a rigorous task and very expensive. Consumers should peel back those layers and make sure what was done to the product isn’t “just enough” to pass. 2014 Meaningful Use is not just about getting an ONC certification. Ask the behavioral health EHR vendor how many clients are using their system that have collected Meaningful Use Stimulus funds. Also ask them to show you their MU dashboard, MU reporting, and Outcome Measurements. Have them show you on a demo LIVE in the application. No Powerpoint slides or screen shots. Will they give you dates in writing as to when they will meet stages 2 and 3? If the vendor is struggling to get certified and waiting until the last minute, they may be sacrificing usability. You should require that your vendor has enough lead time to meet requirements or simply choose a vendor that is already certified. Keep in mind they need to reimburse providers for lost incentive payments and any Medicare penalties if they are not compliant in time.

Smaller software companies may throw together a cacophony of mismatched and barely helpful tools that require a lot of hand holding in order for your office to prove meaningful use. Here is a tip: It should be easy. There should be a dashboard. There should be alerts in the application to help you. Reports should be easily run by your staff without having to call support. This is why the vendor must show you on the demo how “easy” they have made it for you to meet requirements. This is why you ask the vendor how many of their clients have met requirements and ask to talk to those clients. Behavioral Health providers have more and difficult criteria to meet in order to prove Meaningful Use. Working with an EHR that has the funds to cater to this sector of the healthcare industry is important. It may also be necessary to work with a software company that also caters to the general health care market. Coding libraries, funding, awards and recognition from notable organizations such as J.D. Power and SureScripts. A name in the world of healthcare software stacks up when it comes to longevity of something as volatile as the software industry.

Investigate these organizations to see exactly how many people are on their staff and follow our guideline.

Kristin Walker is the owner and CEO of everythingEHR, a behavioral health provider solutions advocacy firm. If you have questions or comments for Kristin, please email her at

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