What is Behavioral Health Practice Management?
Do you need a practice management system for your agency? What is it and how can it help? How does it differ from EHR/EMR? Do you need both types of software to manage your organization?
Do you need behavioral health practice management software for your agency?
While only you can decide if you need a behavioral health practice management system, one good gauge is practice size: since a practice management system is tying together various pieces of an agency and connecting the data, a single provider may not need practice management software.
If you are a solo provider or a small organization, with small separately moving parts, the power of behavioral health practice management may be overkill. If, however, you are a larger agency with five or more providers, there may be enough volume of data that a practice management software is of service.
What is a behavioral health practice management system and how does it differ from EHR/EMR?
Behavioral health practice management streamlines the operational aspects of your mental health practice, such as invoicing, payroll, authorization management, medication accountability, bed management, inventory, document tracking, etc. Electronic Health Records (EHR) or Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are electronic versions of a paper chart.
“EHR or EMR systems streamline data entry, assist with picking the correct DSM/ICD and CPT codes; reduce the amount of paper charting; provide up to date reporting and analytics; and minimize the time it takes to share information with other vendors, such as a lab or pharmacy.”
Practice management systems manage the practice; EHRs automate the client and practice data.
Do you need both a behavioral health practice management system and an EHR?
Again, this question depends on the size and scope of your organization. A small provider may choose to use EMR but not behavioral health practice management; they may want to have their data in an electronic format but not have enough separate pieces in their practice to necessitate a full-blown practice management system. A larger agency will probably want to use a practice management system in tandem with a mental health EHR to streamline the organization and increase efficiency.
The crucial thing to remember with behavioral health practice management is that: the more pieces of software you are using at a time, the greater work it will require to integrate those separate pieces together – and the greater potential for inefficiency. It seems intuitive, but there are many practices who maintain separate systems for their calendar & scheduling, invoicing, payroll, authorization management, bed & medication management, client portal, and more. Making all of those separate pieces work together efficiently and consistently can be a huge undertaking.
If you are in need of behavioral health practice management, you might want to consider choosing a system that’s both EHR and practice management software in one package. Check the capabilities of any program you’re looking at, and don’t forget that any additional vendors that you need a contract with present the potential for inefficiency. Some systems (like PIMSY) partner with outside vendors to provide certain features, but don’t require you to have a separate contract with other systems (ie, we add the cost to your bill, support the functionality, and there’s no contact with another company to use the functionality). This coverage ensures that you have access to what you need without the hassle of managing multiple systems at once.
What other cool stuff can Behavioral Health Practice Management Systems do?
While every system is unique, many behavioral health practice management systems have some powerful capabilities. For example, PIMSY automatically tallies payroll for you. As session notes are created, PIMSY links data about the session length to the provider's record, including how they are paid for that session (percentage, flat fee, hourly rate, etc). When it's time to calculate payroll, a few button clicks pull all of the data for that pay period and instantly calculate the gross pay for everyone in the practice.
You might be able to run a report that shows which clients have no-showed in the past month - or which of your providers is typically late releasing their notes. PIMSY provides detailed authorization management: every time a session note utilizes an authorization, it's automatically decremented - and sends you an alert when only a certain number of authorized visits are remaining. This happens automatically, and helps to ensure that you never conduct a session that isn't authorized by the payer.
One of the strengths of PM systems is that they streamline your client and company data, linking information that is typically housed in separate places, thereby eliminating the workload needed to bridge the gap. The increase in efficiency and data security that a system might provide often pays for the software, many times over. Many practice management software systems offer HIPAA compliance and reduce the risk of costly security breaches.
How do you pick the right Behavioral Health Practice Management Software / System?
For complimentary tools in picking the right software for your practice, see:
PIMSY EMR Resource Center
7 Steps to Find the Right EHR for Your Practice
Software Shopping Tips
Mental & Behavioral Health Software Directories
Should Your EMR Have Canned Notes?
Cookie Cutter vs. Customizable EHR