Mental Health News Radio

Which Behavioral Health EHR Does Your Practice Deserve?

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We were recently asked to describe the moment in our personal journey into the world of behavioral health electronic health record software and record cycle management where we stopped simply selling and became true provider advocates.  

How did this happen?  

Why did this happen?

In our research it had become apparent that the behavioral healthcare market was not likely to be the most profitable.  As a matter of fact we learned that many EHR vendors avoid serving this community entirely.  Although there may be many reasons, one obvious factor is that it’s patients may not be among the wealthiest of the patient communities.  In fact, insurance reimbursements are lower than many other segments.  Mental health advocates feel that the rules and regulations they must follow are often stringent and highly-regulated.  It is definitely a niche market. 

This awareness became a tipping point for me.  It is the day I stopped selling software and started working for providers. It is the day I dove headfirst into studying every behavioral health EHR on the market.  I didn’t just study features and pricing.  I studied the organizational structure, staffing levels, qualifications, company policies, as well as their leadership.  

Those who know me understand that when I believe in something I throw my entire being into the project. I decided it was important for me to align my own company with organizations that “get their hands dirty”, like doing volunteer work in some aspect of mental health just as I have done throughout my life.  Understand that I do not mean just being a member of the Board or simply writing donation checks.  What I want to see is that everyone–from the CEO to the support staff–actively working with the mental health community performing some form of volunteerism.  

I was rather overwhelmed when I began opening my eyes to the complexities of EHRs.  Eventually I found the technologies that were designed to make the working life of a mental health professional easier.  I began to focus on those that were most affordable and yet robust.  I wanted to work with companies that really enable the providers to focus on patient care.

Here is the most important tip for every behavioral health organization:  Do your research!  We will be happy to consult with you if you contact us.  We do not solicit business.  Typically, in twenty minutes or less, we can review the vendors at which you are looking, assess what your needs are, and then begin to assist you in making an educated decision about which software and/or billing company your organization would best serve your company’s needs.  We will never guide you toward selecting software that is missing any of the key features that we see in the competitive products.  We will guide you toward vendors who do not expect your practice to pay upfront for the development of their product because there are many alternatives that may already include the features you need most. 

Features that are already available in many EHRs that are necessary for BH providers:

Dashboard (Clinical, Billing, Meaningful Use)

Billing integration with a clearinghouse or the facility to easily setup direct billing to payers within the application (no more batching of claims).

Submittal of secondary and tertiary claims.  (Several EHRs can do this in as few as 3 clicks)

Printing of HCFA claim forms

Auto Save

Global Search

Embedded Coding Libraries (e.g., type in the word “anxiety” and the software provides a complete list of codes from which to choose that diagnosis)

Mail Merge (e.g., allow the ability to create and format your own forms that pull client information directly from the EHR database to the form)

Processing of Credit Cards

Creation of Appointment Reminders

Compatible with Smartphone, iPad, Tablet and browser-independent access

Provides User Customization of Forms and Fields Within the Application. (e.g., thigh might include the facility for answers to be graphed, offer scoring and calculations, and linking to clinical outcome measurements.  Did you know that a number of BH EHRs had created this functionality as long as a decade ago)

True Cloud Application: no software installation necessary

Clinical Outcome Measurements:  many public libraries of outcome measurements exist already which can be accessed with direct links to EHRs. These measurements are available via the client portal and help providers build their clinical notes. Some of them have the facility within their EHR so that users may link to public libraries or create their own measurements


User Customizable Reporting

Document Storage and Organization

This list of features will continue to grow over time.  There is no perfect EHR.  But we agreed that there should always be an honest and integrity-filled process followed during the selling of EHRs. The saying by Maya Angelou rings true, “When you know better, you do better.”  A few weeks ago I had lunch with Jim Tate of EMR Advocate.  We acknowledged that we had begun our careers by performing the professional job of  “selling” software to organizations.  We are both passionate people who believe in helping providers.  We eventually had to acknowledge that we had sold some products in the past that we had not fully investigated in advance. Once we started performing the appropriate due diligence consistently we began to understand that sometimes we had been selling a leaky boat full of holes. 

Each of us had changed our tune as soon as we understood that we had been leaving providers in EHR “purgatory”.  On separate but parallel paths we changed from selling to helping providers, not just helping software vendors sell their software.  We had both experienced after our change of heart (we began to think of it as “truth selling”) that we had angered some vendors but others rose to the challenge and began creating better products, plugging up these holes.  As consultants to the providers we now say, “Please don’t settle for what is the lowest bidder.  Over time cheap will inevitably cost your practice thousands of hours (and thousands of dollars).  It will definitely  exhaust the staff and leave your office full of unhappy people.”

The bottom line is that every provider needs to know what is available to them.  You cannot make an educated decision about software without fully investigating what is already on the market.  Make sure you fully understand how much your time and sanity is worth to you!







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