EHR and practice management for mental / behavioral health

Mental Health EHR > Do Your Research! (Part 3)

Behavioral Health is Unique – your EHR should be too

All practice management systems are not created equal – and this is especially true of mental health EHR! Unfortunately, behavioral health seems to be the red-headed stepchild of the EHR world.

Due to Meaningful Use + the HITECH Act of 2009, a lot of programs were patched together in the past eight to ten 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, HIPAA compliance & 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? How can you best weed through the many programs available? 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 customizable options in an EHR can seriously impair your ability to function in a streamlined and efficient manner. If you have to manually copy information from software 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 implementation investment.

When considering mental health EHR, be sure to show the vendor 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 to get the functionality and formatting you need.

14. are you forced to use a specific clearinghouse or do you have a choice among multiple options?

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 BCBS. This presents you with the incredibly cumbersome task of manually processing billing and reimbursement, then duplicating entry of that data into your practice management software. Make sure the EHRs you consider offer direct integration to your payers, as much as possible.

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

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 system, but a mental health / substance use / behavioral health EHR

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

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

  • authorization management
  • group and 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 EHR can be critical to effective treatment.

17. inpatient and 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 software program 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 EHR 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 functionality available.

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 part of EHR is the initial time investment to implement & 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 software you consider is 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!

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



Marisa Thompson

Marisa Thompson

Marisa 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.

She is a HIPAA Privacy Officer and has extensive knowledge about HIPAA, practice management, and agency 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.

Leigh-Ann Renz

Leigh-Ann Renz

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.

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Seth H.

“PIMSY more than pays for itself by streamlining my office, improving efficiency and reducing billing times. I would recommend PIMSY to anyone looking for a good EMR company that will help you implement its program and help you with any questions you have along the way.”

~ Seth H., Business Owner

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