The Art of Asking: Searching for a Behavioral Health EHR
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?
With those two questions alone – what and why – you are well on your way to understanding exactly what you want your EHR to do for your practice. This will dramatically inform your search and – ultimately – you finding an EHR that works for your practice.
But then…Ahhh, the how? How to? How to find one? How to use it and make it the ‘norm’ for our practice? How to watch out for the tell-tail signs of a Behavioral Health EHR vendor that shows up everywhere, has a pretty website, and seemingly great testimonials (some vendors grab snippets of praise at opportune times, post them on their websites, and those clients are actually no longer using the software) but do they really have a great product?
Many people – in the spirit of entrepreneurialism – rise up in charlatan fashion to sell their snake oil. Some EHR vendors can, have, and do pay for testimonials. Incentives are offered in the form of cash, free services, free licenses, favors, you name it. Ask the vendor to put in writing that they do not and never have paid for or incentivized their clients for testimonials.
We see these and other cheap tricks as appealing to the ‘not-so-serious-mental-health-practice’ agenda. Be aware of vendors that do one or two demos without a guideline. They may present a warm and fuzzy marketing pitch like, “We won’t sell you our software if it isn’t right for you.” Some vendors mean this and others don’t. EHR vendors may steer or push you to purchase different software if theirs doesn’t meet your needs. Take a pause. Some revenue sharing is likely to be going on for their referral.
A few breezily show you “signature” features such as customizable fields and forms. This is nothing new and we encourage every practice to force mouse control during demos to find out if customization is really that easy.
So…smoke and mirrors aside….how do you find THE ONE?
cost efficiency at the cost of our ‘what’ and our ‘why’
Serious practices need to be careful about balancing cost effectiveness without ending up with a product that is cheap. Unfortunately, not-so-serious practices are often failing to take into account that “cheap” will hurt their practice in the long run. In mastering this artful balance, other questions arise that can guide us to solutions:
- How do you know if the vendors you are finding have a quality product?
- Should insurance companies dictate which EHRs your practice should be using?
- Has the behavioral health EHR software won notable awards for customer service, fastest growing organization, etc.?
- Is their staff size smaller than yours?
- Are there several professionally produced video testimonials from providers who use the software on the website?
- Is the EHR pushing or suggesting you purchase other services, like billing/revenue cycle management? Is the EHR FREE if you do decide to use their billing services?
- Does the EHR CEO and management team have credentials from notable universities in fields such as Information and Technology, Software Programming, or better yet, are they a Mental Health clinician? Have they ever run a mental health practice?
- Does the EHR company have certified billers/coders (ICD-10) on staff? Does the company have mental health providers on staff? If so, how many?
- Does the EHR company affiliate with mental and behavioral health students (training the next generation of providers) at notable colleges/universities?
- Does the EHR organization regularly attend conferences to provide their users with free training clinics and also present their product?
- Look up the staff profiles on LinkedIn. Where have they worked? Are they well rounded? Does their experience/education warrant your attention? Is their only experience with EHR a small organization? Just who is giving you advice?
do your research and ask for help
Adopting a Behavioral health EHR is tough. Migrating from one EHR to another can be even tougher. Providers are always looking at things in relation to other things – they can’t help it. Without a knowledgeable advisor guiding you through this technological overhaul, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Having an advocate working on your behalf helps providers and organizations steer clear from an EHR vendors marketing agenda which can hinder your decision making process.
Begin at the beginning: Google Search. But beware – marketing can push a company to the top of internet search results. As with the medicine man and his snake oil – heavy-duty marketing does not always equal a great product.
Look into Capterra, which was designed for just this purpose: helping your practice find software to meet your needs. Keep in mind, however, that vendors PAY to be listed at the top of results for Capterra. Just because EHR vendors may show up at the top does not necessarily mean they are the BEST. Some other research options include Software Advice – which offers great advice.
Another place to look is the blogosphere where there are a plethora of Blog Articles on this and related topics (beware the Rabbit Hole!). Make a note of the Referrals of people and practices that you admire and wish to emulate.
Insurance company newsletter…….please do NOT allow insurance companies to determine which Mental and Behavioral Health EHR is best for your practice. This is simply NOT good practice.
Then, once you think you’ve found your match…
test the product
Here is where the rubber meets the road and a whole slew of ‘how to’ questions begin to popcorn:
- Will my practice be limited by having to install the software so it can only be used on devices where it is installed? Or is it really “in the cloud”?
- If I prefer that Windows “look and feel” of a product, can I use it on a MAC, iPad, Tablet, PC without any added expense or issues?
- How many add-on products are needed in order for my practice to make use of the EHR? How many times am I taken out of the program in order to use it at full functionality? How much do these add-ons cost?
Follow a guideline for your practice to use during the demo process and talk about it. Keep in mind that reports of “great customer service” are good to know while you are searching for the product you decide to use, but they MAY NOT always equal a great product for YOUR practice.
During the demo take over mouse control. Yes, that’s right. Ask the EHR vendor to give you control of the mouse during the demo and do your own clicking around. Don’t be afraid if you get lost. No one is there to slap your hand or move you to the back of class. The presenter is there to guide you but you are the one who should determine if this product is right for your practice and your staff. Click around! How many clicks does it take to do things? Do you have to click SAVE all over the place or does the software automatically safeguard your work?
Have one of our advisors join you on your EHR demos. All of our clients have greatly appreciated the fact that we will join them on every, single demo. We know the questions to ask and all of the tricks used during presentations of Behavioral Health EHRs. We work with the EHR vendors to negotiate better pricing for your organization.
next round, please
Once you begin to get a feel for what the Behavioral Health EHR is and can do for you, revisit your original ‘What’ and ‘Why’ and ‘How’ questions that guided your purchase in the first place. Look for solutions to these original concerns once the software is at your fingertips. You may discover that a whole new set of questions emerge – questions about how this product looks and feels as a part of your day-to-day activities:
- What does the user interface look like?
- What do you see when you look at the software?
- Do you want this organizational method running your practice?
- Can you imagine this software helping your practice for the next 3 to 5 years?
- How big is the company that created this product?
- What is their vision?
- How many times has the EHR vendor rewritten their software? Updates and overhauls are standard practice in the software industry. It should be a MUST for every EHR vendor as well. A complete overhaul is sometimes a requirement simply to keep up with the latest advances in technology. How often has the EHR vendor undertaken a major overhaul since they have been in business?
And, excitingly, now that your practice is gaining in skill at using the EHR, what problems have been attenuated, and now where can you focus your energies and grow as a practice?
Do your research and ask for help. Let this search reflect that yours is a serious practice. Let us help you discover behavioral health software that is designed solely for your organization. In as little as a ten minute phone call you could be on your way to acquiring software that runs your practice smoothly … so you can focus on patient treatment.
We are your behavioral health EHR software advocates and always here to help.
Kristin Sunanta Walker
Behavioral Health Provider Solutions
Tags: Behavioral Health, EHR, EHRs, Electronic Healthcare Records, EMR, Mental Health, Mental Health News Radio, Mental Health News Radio Network, MHNR Network, Software, Technology, Telemental Health