EHR and practice management for mental / behavioral health

Do Your Research: Part 3

by Marisa Thompson + Leigh-Ann Renz, 3.8.18

Behavioral Health is Unique – its Practice Management is too!

All practice management systems are not created equal – and this is Do Your Research: Part 3especially true of mental health EHRs! Unfortunately, behavioral health seems to be the red-headed stepchild of the EHR world. Behavioral health clinicians are famously resistant to migrate to an electronic system; and once they are ready to embrace the transition, there are a ton of systems to weed through.

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

The need for efficiency, easy integration among departments, data security, and especially mental-health specific functionality were often sacrificed in the rush to create many of these systems. How can you be a smart shopper? In our humble opinion, here are the key elements that a mental health EHR should include.

Mental Health EHR Checklist (Part 3)

13. Is it customizable?

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 practice management, when you’re trying to submit these forms to the managing entity electronically? What if you don’t like the placement of a particular field – or want to add your practice logo to a printed treatment plan?

Lack of customizability in an EMR can seriously impair your ability to function in a streamlined and efficient manner. If you have to manually copy information from an EHR on to 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 initial implementation investment.

When considering systems, be sure to show them any documentation that you have to 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 and customizability to get the functionality + formatting you need.

14. Are you forced to use a specific clearinghouse or do you have a choice between multiple clearinghouses?

Obviously, being able to choose among multiple clearinghouses is preferable to being forced to use only one specific option. 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 Blue Cross Blue Shield. This would either be incredibly cumbersome to manually process billing + reimbursement, then duplicate entry of that data into your EMR. Make sure the programs you consider have direct integration to your payers, as much as possible.

15. Can your staff communicate with one another through the system easily?

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 help get a critical client help faster and more smoothly.

16. Specific to the services you provide: not just a general EHR but a mental health / substance use / behavioral health EHR

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

Behavioral EMRs should be well-versed in the niche functionality of our industry, including:

  • Authorization management
  • Group + team notes
  • Note formatting
  • Treatment planning that links with the progress notes
  • Extensive standard evaluations

Click here for more details about this functionality – and how having it in your EMR can be critical to effective client treatment.

17. Inpatient + facility billing

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 practice management system that offers inpatient / facility billing. Be sure to inquire about other practice management features specific to the inpatient services you provide, such as bed management, eMAR, medication management, substance tracking, inventory, etc.

Think ahead to the future as well: hopefully, your EMR will last at least 10 years, so you can recoup the often-heavy initial investment of both time and cost. You may not be offering inpatient services now – but if you plan to in the future, you should secure a system that has this available when you’re ready.

Take Away

Yes, it can be a time-consuming pain to research EHRs in the detail we’ve suggested – but taking the time to inquire and research on the front end can more than pay for itself down the road. The most difficult parts of an EMR are the initial time investment to implement and on-board. Not doing thorough research from the outset might force you to repeat that intense experience sooner than you’d like.

We suggest that you use these parameters to craft a list of critical needs to help you weed out any systems that might not work. Hold their feet to the fire! Ask questions; make them demonstrate your necessary components of practice management; and make sure that any vendors you consider are prompt, professional and responsive. If they can’t deliver during the initial sales process, chances are they won’t be reliable once you’re a customer!

Looking for a new practice management software? Don’t miss our free guide on doing your research to get the best system! Click here for ‘Do Your Research: Part 1’ & here for ‘Do Your Research: Part 2’

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

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.   i

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 Practice Management

Marisa Thompson is currently PIMSY's Sales Director. In addition, she is a HIPAA Privacy Officer and has extensive knowledge about HIPAA, practice management, and practice 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. Marisa Thompson 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.

In addition, she is a HIPAA Privacy Officer and has extensive knowledge about HIPAA, practice management, and practice 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. 

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