7 Steps to Find the Right EHR for Your Behavioral Health Agency
How do you find the right EHR for your mental health organization? Committing to an electronic medical records program is a big darn deal. It’s an important decision and investment, no matter how you slice it. We’ve tried to break the research process down into manageable chunks and provide guidance for your journey, and while of course we hope you’ll consider PIMSY, ultimately we want you to be matched with the system that’s best for you.
The most important keys to a successful electronic records implementation are a) find the right EHR for your agency and b) ensure that your staff is thoroughly trained on the program to maximize the benefits it offers. Here are 7 steps to implement those keys:
1) Make a list of the 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 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.
Craft a wish list of what you want for the future: ie, what you’re hoping to change in your day-to-day operations in 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. It can offer clarity in choosing the right program; and it helps the sales people you interact with provide information relevant to your long-term success.
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
What are the startup fees costs? Are there any ongoing costs? And exactly what do these fees cover? How much does it cost for training? How much does it cost for ongoing customer service once training is finished?
When you have staff turnover, are you expected to train new employees, or does the EHR 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? Add these questions to your email template.
These details can make a huge 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 Stellar Support for details about what to consider – and ask vendors – when weighing this crucial aspect of EHR.
When choosing software, you should always factor the quality and cost of training & customer service into the price, as they can be more crucial than the program itself.
A tool is only as good as your ability to use it!
Utilize free software directories to help you see what’s available, narrow your search based on your agency’s criteria, and see reviews by clients and technology advisors. For example, Capterra lets you not only see overviews of what different systems offer, and cull your list based on parameters – it also allows you to read uncensored reviews by real users. You can even compare products side by side.
5) Get program referrals from colleagues you trust
Ask your peers who are using electronic systems for help to find the right EHR. Find out what they do and don’t like about their chosen product, including what they wish was different. Add any programs that sound solid to your list of prospective systems. Once you’ve compiled your list, send them the email template you generated in steps 1 – 3.
6) Carefully Note Responses & Follow Up
You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly, both by the level of response you receive and the answers to your specific needs, whether or not a system might be right for your agency. For example, if you don’t get an answer within 24-48 hours, it’s a pretty safe bet that you wouldn’t get a different level of service once you’re a customer!
You should also feel confident that your questions & concerns have been addressed clearly and with specific examples. You should also be offered options. For example, if you feel like your question has been skirted around with a vague answer, and a solid solution isn’t offered for the core components of your agency, 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 adapted to fulfill future goals.
Use the response level & quality to narrow your options, and remove any products from your list that don’t offer solid, timely solutions.
7) Conduct a careful elimination process
Your final eliminations should include considering not only the product itself, but also intangibles like training, support, and implementation protocol. Once you’ve weeded out the systems that don’t work for you, request free demos of each EHR you’re still considering.
The vendor should provide you an opportunity to not only see the system in action, but also to ask questions specific to your workflow. During the demo, re-ask some of the inquiries in your original 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!
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 systems hold it hostage!), and request a detailed implementation protocol, in writing, to help with a smoother roll out.
Visit our EHR Resource Center for additional complimentary tools.
We’re happy to provide a customized quote, live Web demo, or answer any questions you might have:
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