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Behavioral Health EHR > Do Your Research! (Part 3)

PUBLISHED ON: 03.12.2018

Behavioral Health is Unique – your EHR should be too

All EHRs are not created equal – and this is especially true of mental health programs! Unfortunately, behavioral health seems to be the red-headed stepchild of the EHR world.

Due to Meaningful Use and the HITECH Act of 2009, a lot of programs were patched together in the past eight to ten years, in order to net federal incentive funds. Unfortunately for clinicians, many of these systems don’t support the daily reality of the providers using them: they’re cumbersome at best; and behavioral health specific functionality is often an afterthought, if considered at all.

The need for features that truly your day-to-day operations was often sacrificed in the rush to create many of these systems. How can you be a smart shopper? How can you best weed through the many programs available and find a a program that’s right for your agency?

Based on years of feedback from our customers (clinicians, billers, front desk staff, QPs, and more…), here are the items that matter most in behavioral health EHR:

Behavioral Health EHR Checklist (Part 3 of 3)

(click here for Part 1 – or here for Part 2)

11. Customizable & Flexible

Many states, payers, contracts, and service definitions require documentation be submitted on their specific forms. That’s fine if you’re on paper, but how does it translate to electronic processing, when you’re trying to submit these forms to the managing entity digitally? What if you don’t like the placement of a particular field – or want to add your agency logo to a printed treatment plan?

Lack of customizable options in an EHR can seriously impair your ability to function in a streamlined and efficient manner. If you have to manually copy information from software onto a physical form in order to submit it to the state, then you’re not really getting the benefit of an electronic program – negating its cost and implementation investment.

When considering a mental health EHR, be sure to show the vendor any documentation that you use – as well as what you’d prefer to utilize. Find out how they handle specific formatting and how much customizability you will have as the end user. The best-case scenario is that the system provides standard templates, so you don’t have to recreate the wheel – but also offers the flexibility to get the functionality & formatting you need.

12. Clearinghouse Options

Obviously, being able to choose from among multiple clearinghouses is preferable to being forced to use only one specific vendor. Different clearinghouses have different costs; provide different levels of service; and are partnered with different payers.

For example, let’s say the majority of your reimbursements come from Blue Cross Blue Shield – but the EHR you’re considering only integrates with one clearinghouse that doesn’t interface with BCBS. This presents you with the incredibly cumbersome task of manually processing billing and reimbursement, then duplicating entry of that data into your agency management software.

Make sure the EHRs you consider offer a variety of clearinghouse options, and – if possible – direct integration to your most commonly utilized payers.

13. Communicate With Other Staff Through the EHR

Being able to quickly chat with a colleague, in a confidential and HIPAA-compliant manner, is invaluable and can make your daily work flow much more efficient. Does your EHR offer the ability to communicate through the system? Imagine being able to leave feedback for a clinician you’re supervising on the session note before it’s released for invoicing – or getting a message from the front desk that your next client has checked in and is in the waiting room for you.

This type of communication can also provide crucial support for clients in crisis. Being able to message clinicians during a crisis management situation can save time and get a client critical help faster and more smoothly.


14. EHR Specific to Mental & Behavioral Health

You know how different the mental health world can be from general medicine. If you’ve used an EHR that’s not really designed for behavioral health or substance use, you also understand just how frustrating it can be to try and fit a round peg into a square hole.

Any EHR you consider should be well-versed in the niche functionality of our industry, including:
// authorization management
// group and team notes
// note formatting
// treatment planning that links with the progress notes
// extensive standard evaluations

15. Inpatient Functionality

There’s mental health – and then there’s inpatient mental health, which are two different animals. Obviously, if you provide inpatient services, you’ll need a software program that offers inpatient / facility billing. You’ll additionally want to ask about other functionality specific to the inpatient services you provide, such as bed management, eMAR, medication management, 42 CFR Part 2, inventory, security, lab results, etc.

Click here for our complete list of EHR must-haves for inpatient services.

Think ahead to the future as well: hopefully, your EHR will last at least ten years, so you can recoup the heavy initial investment of both time and cost. There’s a lot of training and calibration required with any new system, and that’s not something you want to repeat often. You may not be offering inpatient services now – but if you plan to in the future, you should secure a system that has this functionality available.

Take Away

Yes, it can be time-consuming to research EHRs in the detailed ways we’ve suggested – but taking the time to inquire and research on the front end will more than pay for itself down the road. The most difficult part of purchasing or switching EHRs is the initial time investment to implement & on-board. Lack of thorough research from the outset might force you to repeat that intense experience sooner than you’d like.

Click below for a step-by-step outline of how to implement these parameters into action items:


To see how PIMSY fulfills every single one of these items, contact us: 877.334.8512, ext 1 –


Marisa Thompson

Marisa Thompson

Marisa is currently PIMSY’s Sales Director, but prior to taking that role, she both used PIMSY at an agency as an end-user – and then joined our Support Department as an employee. She knows PIMSY inside and out and has put it to work from every possible angle. She is a HIPAA Privacy Officer and has extensive knowledge about HIPAA, practice management, and agency needs, from front desk to clinician. In addition to leading the Sales Team, she is regularly called upon for consultation with Marketing, Management, Development, and Support.
Leigh-Ann Renz

Leigh-Ann Renz

Leigh-Ann Renz is the Marketing & Business Development Director of PIMSY EHR. For more information about electronic solutions for your practice, check out Mental Health EHR.

Author: pehradmin

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