The transition to electronic health records is inevitable. The world of business and even social relationships has become digital, and behavioral health is no exception. As much as we all continue to have a nostalgic connection to the hand-written word (including paper notes!), the age of managing, maintaining, and organizing your agency on paper is coming to an end.
We all know it, and despite the resistance you may encounter from some of your clinicians who don’t want to give up their traditional methods of documenting a session, there really are just a few questions that remain: Is it time to transition to electronic health records? If so, how do choose the right one and get started?
Or, is it time to transition to a different system? Maybe you’re already using an EHR, but it’s no longer meeting your needs. How do you let go of your legacy (outdated) program and make the switch to a new system?
One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make is not putting enough time, resource allocation, and planning into selecting & implementing an EHR. It’s a big.darn.deal, and it deserves the time, attention and full participation of everyone on your team. While it’s exceedingly difficult to find the time to properly train for and implement a new system, it’s more than worth it.
As you move from acceptance that it’s time to go electronic to taking action, it’s crucial to understand that this is an investment that will pay off for years to come, if done properly. Or, if done haphazardly, will cost you far more in money, energy, labor, and other resources over time.
Plan for a integrated roll out, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can start using a system in a week’s time with no hiccups. It takes solid research, good planning, and reallocation of your resources until everything is running smoothly on the new program.
Maybe you specialize in treating children, and summers are a great time to get caught up with other projects. Summers tend to be slower in general because everyone is affected by the school calendar, and seasonal affective disorder drives more folks into therapy during the darker months.
Whenever it falls for you, the ideal time to transition to electronic records is when you have a stream of revenue coming in from prior work and a little break from current treatment sessions. If you don’t have a slow time for your business, check with your staff. When would they most appreciate taking on this project?
There may be internal processes or even personal deadlines that would allow your employees to give more focus and dedication to EHR integration. You must be realistic and understand that integrating an EHR will pull your employees away from their regular responsibilities as they do the hard work of training on a new system and switching everything from a paper to electronic format (or from one system to another).
To make this change as painless as possible, you have to get everyone on board. This is often one of the most challenging aspects of a successful implementation for mental & behavioral, because your staff (naturally) feels threatened by change: old school clinicians often don’t want to get off of paper; your support team may be scared that the technology will eliminate or threaten their necessity to the agency; the hard work of the investment required is daunting; and changing to a whole new way of running the business is stressful to everyone involved.
That being said, make sure that you are fully invested in the change. If you’re not truly committed to making this work and perceiving it as a positive change for your organization, your employees will pick up on that and resist. Find a way to truly embrace the transition, and then help your staff to do the same.
You may even need to meet with each of them individually to allay fears, get an idea of their availability for training, and secure their personal commitment to the implementation process. Yes, that’s a huge time investment; but honestly, it may very well pay off by getting key staff truly on board.
Be wise and realistic enough to determine which of your staff should be front runners in the process – and which should only be trained on their individual portion after the transition is fully complete. Who are the go getters in your office? Who is computer savvy and flexible enough to embrace this experience and act as a liaison between your practice and the EHR vendor? (Because you’re probably too busy!)
Identify the strongest members of your team and approach them about being leaders for this process; they can be go-tos for those employees who are more resistant, and will naturally guide the rest of the team. Identify those most likely to resist the transition, and find a way to cultivate their support & buy-in, as much as possible.
As you create your timeline of EHR implementation, factor in at least a month of research: another huge mistake that organizations make is choosing a system too quickly, without enough legwork. Keep in mind that, ideally, you will be using this program for at least 10 years, so it needs to be software that can grow with your agency and is flexible enough to navigate an evolving industry.
For a complimentary guide to the EHR research process for mental & behavioral health agencies, click here.
1) Software Directories offer tools to narrow your search by functionality need – and lets you compare products side-by-side. Contact these vendors, tell them what you’re looking for, and they will provide help in securing the right system.
2) Referrals: ask your peers! Electronic health records is such a hot-button issue, other agencies might be happy to tell you exactly what has or hasn’t worked for them and give advice about partnering with specific vendors.
3) Get Help! Use those same strongest members of your team to assist with the research. Not only are they naturally good at it, it will make them that much more invested in the process and excited about the transition.
Better yet, maybe assign a leader in each department to research their niche need. For example, someone in Billing who researches systems because on invoicing; someone at the Front Desk who approaches this process from an administrative perspective; etc.
For more practical solutions, check out our Free EHR Tips:
We’d love to show you how PIMSY can save time, reduce cost, and maximize profitability for your behavioral health agency! Contact us for details: 877.334.8512, ext 1 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.