Mental Health News Radio

Making the Big Behavioral Health EHR Switch: Care and Counseling Center of Georgia

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What is a Community Mental Health organization to do when it is time to make the switch from one Behavioral Health EHR to another?

They start planning.

They outline what isn’t working about their current system and plan out their goals for transitioning to a new EHR that can better handle their needs. Sometimes the first jump into an electronic health record system is successful only in that it transitions the agency off a paper-based system and educates the staff about what kinds of features they want in a new system.

I met with Care and Counseling Center of Georgia in 2014 to assess their existing EHR issues and to determine which system would help them with the following:

• Streamline their clinical workflow • Offer tools that help counselors provide better mental health treatment • Know exactly what is going on with their practice revenue • Uplift the entire organization—from the front desk, billing, clinicians, and directors—by moving them to an elegant, browser-based, robust, and fast EHR

I find it enlightening to work as a consultant. Your client is in pain. The operations, from their clinical department to their billing office, are in turmoil. With some systems it is very easy for a fast-paced agency to quickly find themselves in the weeds with an EHR that promises big features but cannot deliver. Many practices think the system they are using is as good as it gets. We know better because we have been working with providers for a long time and know how much more educated they are becoming about the needs of behavioral health agencies.

Billing is often the first place in the workflow that gets completely out of control. Sadly, some providers blame the billing staff for any issues they are having. An EHR vendor that cannot handle the volume of claims that get pumped through their system will also blame the billing staff of an agency rather than fix the real problem: The EHR. I was able to evaluate the personnel, the workflow and the EHR system from a neutral point of view during my three-day onsite visit. It was clear to me how over-burdened the billing staff were by using their EHR system’s complicated commands to perform essential functions. Within a very short time I could see how several competitive systems would work much better for this agency. I also was able to see the entire process in action and evaluate how they could streamline their workflow agency-wide to bring better results. While they had tried to address the issues with their first EHR, it became clear that the agency had suffered enough and needed a rapid, positive change using better technology. Their first question was, “How can we afford a new system?” My answer is always the same, “How can you afford not to switch?”

Care and Counseling Center of GA investigated EHRs that were recommended before choosing Valant, a behavioral health EHR designed by a practicing psychiatrist. They also decided it was time to bring in a revenue cycle management firm that successfully manages multiple Samaritan Institute practices with Valant as well as other software. With 11.2 million dollars in funding last year, Valant is in business for the long term. I recommended their product to this agency because I knew they had the staff size, credentials, and technology to handle its needs. Valant is one of several EHRs we recommend and it is certainly among the true leaders of Behavioral Health EHR technology. My job as a consultant is to constantly update my reviews of multiple systems because what may work for one practice may not be the right fit for another. Valant was the right fit for this organization.

A perception among several agencies I have worked with is that Valant is so elegant it must be out of their price range. This is simply not true. Valant has an entire department dedicated to single providers and small practices. What I have seen among many Windows-based, installed systems is their EHRs are so overly-detailed and cumbersome that they do, in fact, become too expensive for the EHR company to set up and support small practices.

The marketing material I have heard from smaller EHR vendors is that their system is so “robust” it really is better suited for larger organizations. It is time to debunk that statement right now. Every behavioral health provider, from the single-user to 900-user psychiatric organizations, deserves great technology. The truth of the matter is simply that EHRs with elegant design and a real passion for serving the behavioral health community as a whole can and will handle any size organization.

We believe that Valant has been exceedingly generous with its pricing to our clients. Once you add up all of the extra fees that smaller EHR companies charge and compare how these services are included within Valant pricing, Valant is often less expensive. For example, Care and Counseling Center of Georgia is now paying less for Valant than they were for their first EHR even though they have more users on the system.

Because we had introduced this agency to their first EHR we wanted to be involved for its second EHR all the way through implementation. Having had our own trials and tribulations with behavioral health EHR technology we now have a strict company policy about the EHRs we recommend. When we start hearing from our clients that an EHR is not working we take this seriously and will drop our support of the organization if they cannot address the issues to everyone’s satisfaction.

This time around we were involved in every phone call and every meeting. We worked with the agency onsite during and after their go-live date with Valant. This experience was invaluable for us and has enabled us to work with other practices that are severely hindered by their existing EHR. The team at Valant, much like the other EHR vendors we support , encourage our feedback. If one of our practices is even remotely unhappy, an all-points bulletin is sent out with multiple employees from management to support jumping through hoops to address the problem. While we are reluctant to disparage a small EHR company from their place in the behavioral healthcare market, we believe we must support only quality products.

Our work and support of Care and Counseling Center of Georgia shows no signs of slowing down. We love this organization. Everyone from senior leadership to the counselors and office staff are incredible human beings and our friends. I am looking forward to presenting a program with Dr. Carol Pitts, their Clinical Director, at the 2015 Samaritan Institute conference. We’ll discuss Behavioral Health EHR technology and clinical workflow. Carol is truly one of the best clinical directors in the business and a rarity in that she is extremely savvy when it comes to technology. It will be my pleasure to share the floor with her.

There are many deserving EHR vendors that have created incredible products. We recommend that you fully vett each vendor before you make the leap. Marketing and sales tactics can be extremely misleading.

Should you have any questions or concerns about your EHR choice, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Kristin Sunanta Walker


CEO, everythingEHR

Subject Matter Expert EHR Technology and Advisor, Solihten Institute

888.200.2937 Ext. 1

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