Choose the Right Mental Health EHR for Your Agency
Picking an Electronic Health Records is a really important decision; how do you choose the right mental health EHR for your agency?
1. Make a list of the mental health EHR items that matter most
For example, if you don’t do your own billing, you’ll want to communicate that immediately to a potential system’s sales team so they can connect you with the right product.
If the most vital issue to your agency is ensuring that you don’t use expired authorizations or that you can run a report showing which clients have no-showed for appointments, you need to let your prospective mental health EHRs know immediately, so you don’t waste time considering software that can’t do what you need most.
Once you identify the backbone of your agency’s needs, you’ll have a much easier time weeding out systems that may not deliver.
2. Create an email template of these vital necessities
Write up a brief description of the current flow of your organization: an overview of how you see clients, what records you keep, and what protocols you routinely utilize. Additionally, craft a wish list of what you want for the future: ie, what you’re hoping to change in your day-to-day operations within the next year, a few years down the road, and over the next decade.
Knowing what you need now – and what direction you want to take going forward – serves two purposes. Describing your non-negotiable agency priorities in writing will help solidify your boundaries – and can provide clarity among your team, as you bring your department heads into this process. It will also make your research more effective by streamlining communication with vendors.
Adding a wish list of your future goals (and possible needs related to those) is not only good for your team; it also helps the EHR sales people you interact with provide information relevant to your long-term success. As you conduct initial research, this list will help you immediately weed out any EHRs that can’t meet your basic needs, saving you – and these vendors – time.
Ideally, you want to be on a system that grows with your organization. It should not only satisfy your current needs – but also support your evolving goals & growth over time.
3. Add a request for specific pricing
Once your email template is crafted, add a request for pricing: what are the startup costs, what do they cover, and are there any additional onboarding or implementation fees? How much does training cost, and can it be conducted virtually?
Will you need to pay for a trainer to come onsite? Are there fees for ongoing customer service, once training is finished? When you have staff turnover, are you expected to train new employees, or does the vendor provide that? And if they provide it, does it cost extra?
How are training and support handled? Can you reach customer service on the phone, or can you only send an email – or submit a Help Desk ticket? Are you required to watch training videos before you can ask specific questions? Add these questions to your email template.
These details can make a massive difference in whether or not your staff is able to truly utilize the system. It doesn’t matter how amazing of an EHR you buy; if you don’t know how to use it properly, it’s not adding value to your agency – and may actually decrease efficiency.
Check out our insiders check list for details about what to consider – and ask vendors – when weighing this crucial aspect of mental health EHR.
Tailored services like training, implementation, and customer service are as vital – if not more so – than the EHR itself.
A tool is only as good as your ability to use it!
4. Consult the Mental Health EHR experts (for free)
To begin compiling a list of potential systems, utilize a software directory. There’s typically a complimentary option that lets you see overviews of what different systems offer, filter by your agency’s functionality criteria, and read uncensored reviews by actual users of each program.
Some directories also provide the option to compare products side-by-side. If you’d like more guidance, they often offer paid consultation in addition to these free options. Two directories we like for the mental health space are Capterra & Software Advice.
5. Get referrals from peers you trust
Ask your peers who are using electronic systems at other organizations what they do and don’t like about their chosen product, including what they wish was different. Check with any professional organizations you belong to as well; they sometimes maintain lists of systems they’ve vetted for your niche area of treatment.
Add any programs that seem solid to your list of prospective options. Once you’ve compiled your list, send them the email template you generated in steps 1 – 3.
6. Carefully Note Responses & Follow Up
If you don’t get an answer within 24-48 hours, cross that vendor off your list. If they can’t deliver during the initial sales process, chances are they won’t be reliable once you’re a customer!
You should also feel confident that your questions & concerns have been addressed clearly and with specific examples. If you feel like any of your inquiries have been skirted around with a vague answer, and a solid solution isn’t offered to each of your core agency needs, that’s probably not the product for you.
The vendor should explain how their EHR not only meets your current needs, but also how it can be utilized to fulfill the future agency goals you’ve communicated. Pay attention to your gut feeling about their responses: does each program that stays on your list feel solid, trustworthy, and reliable?
Use the response level & quality to narrow your options, and remove any products from your list that don’t offer solid, timely solutions.
7. In demos, hold their feet to the fire!
As you begin conducting live demos, hold the vendors’ feet to the fire. Ask lots of questions; make them show you how their system fulfills your critical functionality list; and re-ask some of the inquiries in your initial email. Take note of any answers that aren’t consistent with what you were originally told: providing more detail is great; giving a different answer is not!
Each vendor you demo with should provide you an opportunity to not only see their system in action, but also make plenty of time for your questions, especially details specific to your workflow. At the end of the demo, you should feel that they had plenty of time for you; that what you saw is consistent with what has been previously communicated; and that you’ve been offered solutions to each of your core needs.
8. Conduct a careful, final elimination process
Use the quality of the live demo to narrow your options, and remove any products from your list that don’t offer solid, timely solutions. Make sure that any software you consider is prompt, professional and responsive. Your final eliminations should include considering not only the product itself, but also intangibles like training, support, and implementation protocol.
At a certain point, you have to take the plunge. Be sure to clarify the terms of the contract you sign, including how you would get your data out of the system, should you choose not to renew in the future (some EHRs make that difficult), and ask for an implementation protocol to support a smoother roll out.
Mental Health EHR Considerations in a Post-COVID World
Functionality that has become vital during the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely remain essential, even as we slowly return to post-coronavirus world. As you consider systems, be sure to secure virtual & remote essentials, including:
// patient portal
// provider portal
// appointment reminders
// HIPAA-compliant work-from-home
Good luck! Check out our EHR Resource Center for more complimentary tools.
Considering PIMSY as your Mental Health EHR?
We’re happy to provide a customized quote, live Web demo, or answer any questions you might have: 877.334.8512, ext. 1 | firstname.lastname@example.org