Mental Health EHRs > Do Your Research! (Part 2)
Mental health EHRs should be as unique as the behavioral health field
Not all mental health EHRs are created equal! Sadly, mental health is often treated as the red-headed stepchild of the EHR world. In the age of Meaningful Use, many electronic systems have been slapped together in the past six to seven years to try and capture the federal incentive funds.
Unfortunately, many of these programs don’t address the daily challenges of the mental health 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 features were often sacrificed in the rush to create many of these systems.
How can you be a smart shopper? How do you filter through the choices and secure a solid program? In our humble opinion, here are the key elements that mental health EHRs should include.
Mental Health EHRs Checklist (Part 2)
7. automatic backup routines to protect the integrity of the data
We’ve all had the stomach-dropping experience of working hard on a document, only to have our changes lost for one reason or another. It’s never pleasant, and it can be especially annoying when it’s session notes – or client payments! – that are erased.
In order to support practice efficiency, your EHR should provide reliable nightly backups to protect both client and practice data. Not only does this enhance HIPAA compliance and overall security, it also gives you a huge measure of comfort to know that your vital company data won’t be lost and can be retrieved if needed.
Having to do backup routines manually is cumbersome and inefficient – plus opens up the potential of human error and therefore data loss. Look for a program that offers these routines automatically.
8. data ownership – do you get a copy of your data if / when you leave? Do you have to pay for this?
We were pretty surprised a few years ago when we found out that some other EHRs hold data hostage, either by forcing leaving clinicians to pay to get their information out of a system – or by not responding to requests to retrieve patient records! Before you sign a contract with a mental health EHR, be sure to confirm how they handle this issue.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of signing a contract and onboarding a new system, think of the potential headaches if you have a hard time extracting your data if you choose to non-renew in the future. Not only could it be a time-consuming – and/or expensive challenge – it can also negatively impact your HIPAA compliance.
You’re not going to stop treating patients while you transition from one EHR to another. But what happens if you get audited in the middle of the migration? OCR wants to see a client’s HIPAA documentation; but it’s stuck in your last EHR and you can’t retrieve the data. Or a payer needs a signed copy of a consent form. What a pain to make your patients resubmit all of their supporting documentation! You need access to all client and practice records, easily & efficiently.
And what about patient treatment? Let’s say a clinician is filling in for a sick colleague and treating a regular client. They can’t access the treatment plan or previous session notes because the legacy EHR has those records on lockdown. Not having secure access to all data is not only a security risk, it also threatens secure and timely client treatment.
No matter how great a system might be, if you can’t easily and affordably get your information out of the program, the headaches of data extraction might outweigh the benefit. Make sure to nail this detail down before signing a contract.
9. there’s no such thing as a free lunch
If the system is “free”, then how is it operating? You cannot run a company or provide a service without funding of some kind. Data is being housed on a server; developers are being paid to maintain and/or update the program. There are costs to providing an EHR: the vendor is receiving funds in some way.
Is this through advertisements? Are vital features being blocked? Is the client data being sold? Some clinicians are fine with these caveats; others are wary of their clients’ data being sold, even if it’s stripped of PHI. It’s always good to investigate how an EHR charges.
Even if the program is not billing you directly, operating costs are being covered somehow; as a user, you are participating in this exchange. Make sure you understand how you are paying for the program – and make sure that you’re ok with it.
10. is support located in the US? Are you going to have language barriers if you need assistance or training?
It doesn’t matter how earnestly someone is trying to assist you; if you can’t understand them or there’s a language barrier, it doesn’t work – especially if you’re discussing technical issues! Whenever you on-board a program, there is a lot of training initially – and there’s always going to be ongoing customer support needs for the life of the contract.
When shopping for a mental health EHRs, be sure to get details about where the customer service is located: are there time zone restrictions and/or language barriers that might interfere with securing training and/or support efficiently & effectively?
11. is the system regularly updated? Do you have any say in improvements or changes?
Technology changes, as do the laws that regulate its usage. Laws change, especially within behavioral health! Not only do mental health EHRs need to change on a regular basis in order to stay in compliance with laws and policies; any system worth its salt should grow and evolve over time. Remember in the 90s, when programs were delivered via DVDs? That’s a perfect example of a static, unchanging system – there’s a reason software isn’t acquired from a mailed disc anymore!
When researching software, find out how often the system is updated – if the improvements are free or charged – and if you have any say in the changes. Ideally, a program will always be improving based on customer requests; the improvements will be free and/or reasonably priced; and you as a client are empowered to contribute your feedback and help drive the upgrades.
To see how PIMSY fulfills every single one of these items, contact us: 877.334.8512, ext 1 – email@example.com
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.