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The Short List: Narrowing the scope of your Behavioral Health EHR search

shortlistAs a mental and behavioral healthcare practice ready to adopt or expand a paperless system, you might find yourself in new territory without a map.

While there is no one perfect catchall, forming a shortlist of vendors depends on understanding how important features of Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology can meet the needs of your workplace. Assessing your needs, knowing what you are looking for, and being in the know about key features that systems offer saves you valuable time, energy – and in the long run – cost. The features listed below provide a good starting point in leading you in the right direction to find the EHR your practice needs.  We are also a phone call or email away if you would like a guide through this process.

Credibility: Who are the founding members of the organization? Are they mental health providers that have created software that runs their own successful mental health agencies? Would the CEO or President be an invited speaker at a Behavioral Health conference to discuss something other than technology? What kind of contributions have the founding members created for Behavioral Health? Are they the face of the company? Can you find their staff on LinkedIn with a multitude of and varied experience in the field of Behavioral Health?

Billing System: A billing system that focuses on easy setup for direct billing to many payers within the application but also offers built-in integration with clearinghouses for payment and eligibility checking so you spend less time in clearinghouse portals to process your billing. EHRs that have direct links to databases that house every insurance payers address, phone numbers, etc. which reduces the amount of time your practice needs to spend setting up the system, as well as, human error.  EHRs with tools that show you as a provider what your reimbursement rates should be across multiple insurance payers.

Claims Submittal: A process for the submittal of both secondary and tertiary claims.  Automatic alerts when claims have not been paid within 30 days. Another key feature is the ability to print HCFA claim forms.

Compatibility: Smartphone, iPad, Tablet and browser-independent access without additional charges. Make sure this access was built with your index finger in mind!  Many EHRs offer rudimentary access for use on mobile devices or via browsers, but this access was not designed with the providers ease of use in mind.

Customization: A feature that allows for the adaption and easy creation and exact duplication of forms and fields within the application. A system may, for example, include the ability for answers to be graphed, include scoring and calculations, and the linking to clinical outcome measurements. A number of Behavioral Health EHRs created this functionality as long as a decade ago and have been adding to this functionality every year.

True Cloud Application: No software installation necessary!

Clinical Outcome Measurements: Many public libraries of outcome measurements exist already which can be accessed with direct links to EHRs. These measurements are available via the client portal and help providers build their clinical notes. Some of them have the capability to include outcome measurements from within their EHR so that users may link to public libraries or create their own.

Resources: Many EHRs have embedded publicly available guidelines into their software.  Watch out for software offering simple links to information already available on the web. EHRs with adequate funding have this information built into the scope of the application.

Embedded Coding Libraries: EHRs that link to and provide embedded engines with content and tools for integrated mental health provider documentation, clinical decision support, and patient management, mapped to reference terminology standards. Databases of medical concepts with methods for presenting and documenting relevant symptoms, history, physical findings, tests, diagnoses and therapy for your behavioral health organization increase your effectiveness as a provider.  EHRs with this kind of technology built in to their application includes support for reference and billing terminologies including CPT®, DSM, ICD, LOINC®, RxNorm, SNOMED CT®, Clinical Care Classification and others, as well as, for evaluation and management (E&M) coding. This kind of technology is built to make your life as a provider easier.

Staff Size: This is your patient mental health data. What is the size of the company housing your patient records? In our estimation any electronic health record company that stores your patient data should have a mixture of licensed mental health professionals, certified billers and coders, as well as, licensed professionals in software development and programming on staff. A staff of less than 20 actual employees is concerning. Go to LinkedIn and look up the company to see exactly how many people are on staff and what their credentials are in your field.

Funding Sources: While we believe in small business enterprise, software companies that store health records must be able and willing to acquire funding from investors, venture capital sources, etc. in order to keep up with technology. Has the EHR vendor been able or willing to acquire significant investment capital in order to rewrite their software within the last three years using browser-based tools just as every other sector of business has (think TurboTax, Nextflix,, Facebook, Amazon, and general healthcare EHR vendors). We are talking about medical records. Patient mental health records are serious business.

Support: An updated and user friendly design. Support that is available when you need it but be mindful of how much support you require to use this software. Many EHRs tout their excellent support and your agency will need it. Is support and implementation handled internally or outsourced to other organizations? Is their staff size so small that your implementation person, sales person, and support are all the same human being? There is something to be said for simplicity. Support is a must but you should only need it occasionally once your practice is up and running.

The right Behavioral Health EHR can allow your agency the time to focus on organizational values and patient treatment. At everythingEHR we value your time and energy and are here to help in your search.


behavioral health, counseling, EHR, electronic health record, mental health, Mental Health News Radio

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