Choosing the Right EHR Software for Behavioral Health: Key Considerations and Best Practices

The Ability Toolbox is a disabled-owned small business. We use affiliate links, which means we may receive commissions at no added cost to you. Thanks!

 

According to Allied Market Research, in 2020, the electronic health records (EHR) market had a total worth of USD 30,550.3 million worldwide, and it is projected to increase to USD 63,848.6 million by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7% between 2021 and 2030. 

Electronic health records, which are digital versions of patients' medical records, are created, gathered, and stored electronically. The healthcare industry has adopted EHRs due to the rising demand for sophisticated healthcare services.

The decision to implement an electronic health record (EHR) system is not a small one. The systems you choose will have a big impact on your organization's efficiency and productivity, as well as its ability to provide high-quality care. 

In this article, we'll explore some key considerations for choosing an EHR system for behavioral health care providers, along with tips on how to choose the right EHR system for your organization.

Compliance With HIPAA Regulations

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance is important for behavioral health providers. It's required by law, but it's also a good idea to be compliant for other reasons. 

According to HHS.gov, the HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes nationwide guidelines for safeguarding individuals' medical records and other identifiable health information. It applies to health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and certain healthcare providers that operate electronically. The Rule mandates appropriate measures to ensure the confidentiality of protected health information and places restrictions on the use and disclosure of such information without an individual's consent.

HIPAA compliance helps protect patient privacy and security, which is crucial in the behavioral health field, where many patients have mental illnesses that make them more sensitive to privacy violations than others.

HIPAA compliance also helps protect your reputation as a practice because it demonstrates your commitment to maintaining high standards of care and keeping information confidential. Both are things that patients value highly when choosing their providers.

Customization Options

Customization options are a critical factor to consider when choosing EHR. Many behavioral health providers have specific needs that require customizations to their EHR systems. 

For example, if you work with both adults and children, you may want to have separate patient charts for each age group so that the information is organized in a way that makes sense for each patient's condition and treatment plan. Similarly, if one of your specialties is psychiatry, it would be helpful if your software could provide special codes or icons used by psychiatrists, so staff can quickly identify them when entering data into the system.

A good EHR should offer customization options that meet the unique needs of each practice type or specialty within behavioral healthcare so there isn't any confusion about how best practices should be implemented within these settings.

Integration with Existing Systems

One of the biggest advantages of choosing an EHR software for behavioral health that's already integrated with your existing systems is that you won't have to worry about learning how to use two different methods at once.

According to AccuMedic, a healthcare technology firm that offers solutions to healthcare providers, consolidating medical and behavioral health information can improve the efficiency of clinical teams. With easy access to treatment history, there is no need for redundant data entry, resulting in better coordination of care and saving time and money for all parties involved.

In addition, consider whether there are any other applications within your facility where integration would make sense. These include billing software,  patient portal software,  scheduling/scheduling management system,  or clinical documentation improvement (CDI) software.

User-Friendly Interface

A user-friendly interface is an important consideration when choosing EHR software. You want to ensure that the system is easy to learn and use, or else your staff will waste time figuring out how things work. 

To test this aspect of an EHR product before implementing it, ask yourself:

  • Is the interface intuitive? Do I know where to go to find what I need?
  • Will my staff be able to navigate around the software without any help from me (or another member of management)?

If you answer no either time, then there's a chance you might have chosen an ill-fitting EHR solution for your behavioral health practice.

Support for Behavioral Health-Specific Features

Behavioral health-specific features are those that are designed to support behavioral health providers, such as:

  • EHRs allow you to document patient assessments and interventions in a way that's specific to the needs of your practice. For example, if you're a mental health provider who works with children, an EHR might allow you to document the results of a play therapy session or a parent-child interaction without having to create multiple documents.
  • The ability to easily transfer information from one location or provider (i.e., hospital) into another (i.e., outpatient clinic). This can be especially helpful when collaborating with other professionals on patient care plans. 

Vendor Reputation and Support

Before you sign on the dotted line, it's important to do your research. A vendor's reputation can indicate how well they'll treat your practice and patients. Look for reviews from other customers and testimonials from current or former users of their software. If possible, reach out to these people directly. They may have valuable insight into what it's like working with the vendor in question and whether or not their products are worth investing in.

You should also consider whether or not there is evidence that the company has an effective support team and customer service team.

Cost and Affordability

Cost and affordability are important factors to consider when selecting EHR software. The cost of software can vary depending on the size of your practice, but it's important to remember that there are other costs associated with implementing and maintaining your EHR system as well, like training and support of staff members and regular updates and maintenance of EHR software.

According to Behavioral Health Business, only approximately 6% of behavioral health providers have implemented EHR systems, whereas more than 80% of hospitals have adopted this technology. The slow adoption of EHR systems can be attributed to the absence of federal incentives and challenges for smaller providers to integrate such systems. 

However, experts in the behavioral health industry anticipate that new federal funding, the transition to value-based care, and the emphasis on measuring outcomes could result in greater EHR adoption in the future.

Conclusion

The decision to purchase EHR software should not be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider, including the type of practice you have, how it will impact your workflow and patient experience, and how long it takes for providers to learn how to use it effectively. 

However, if you take the time upfront to research your options carefully and plan accordingly, then choosing the right EHR can be a positive step toward achieving your goals as a behavioral health provider.

Photo by cottonbro studio

+ posts

Follow me down the rabbit hole!

I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds. 

Tags:

The Ability Toolbox
Register New Account