Mental Health EHRs > Do Your Research! (Part 2)
Your EHR should be as unique as the behavioral health field itself
Not all mental health EHRs are created equal! Sadly, mental health is often an afterthought in the EHR world. Due to Meaningful Use, many electronic systems have been cobbled together in the past decade to try and capture incentive funds.
Sadly, due to this haphazard architecture, many of these programs don’t address the daily challenges of the behavioral health clinicians using them: they’re cumbersome at best; and mental health functionality is often an afterthought, if considered at all.
Software efficiency, the integration of feature, and most importantly, behavioral health specific functionality 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 myriad of choices and find a solid system?
Based on our years of feedback from our customers – who are mental health clinicians – here are the items that matter most in mental health EHRs:
Mental Health EHRs Checklist (Part 2 of 3)
(click here for Part 1)
6. Automatic Backup Routines
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 efficiency, your EHR should provide reliable nightly backups to protect the integrity of both patient and agency 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 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 supports these protocols automatically.
7. Data Ownership
We were pretty surprised a few years ago when we found out that some other EHRs hold data hostage, either by forcing agencies to pay to get their data when they change systems – or by not responding to requests to retrieve 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 the old EHR and you can’t retrieve that data. Or a payer needs a signed copy of a consent form. What a pain it would be to make your patients resubmit all of their supporting documentation!
Let’s say a clinician is filling in for a sick colleague and treating a regular client, but they can’t access the treatment plan or previous session notes because the old 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.
You need quick, easy, and efficient access to all client and agency records.
8. You Get What You Pay For
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 locked? 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; and as a user, you are participating in this exchange.
9. Accessible Customer Service
Is the EHR’s Support Team located in the US? Are there going to be language barriers when you need assistance or training? It doesn’t matter how earnestly someone is trying to help you; if you can’t understand them or there’s a language barrier, it just doesn’t work – especially if you’re discussing technical issues!
Whenever you implement a new mental health EHR, there is a lot of initial training – and there’s always going to be ongoing customer service needs for the life of the contract. When shopping for a system, be sure to nail down the details about where the customer service team is located: are there time zone restrictions and/or language barriers that might interfere with efficient, effective training & support?
10. Ongoing Updates
Technology changes, as do the laws that regulate its use. 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 competent system should grow & evolve over time.
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, an EHR is regularly improving, based on customer requests; the updates will be free and/or reasonably priced; and you as a client are empowered to contribute your feedback and help drive this product evolution.
Click here for Part 3 in this series…
To see how PIMSY EHR fulfills every one of this items, contact us: 877.334.8512, ext 1 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.