What to Look for in a Mental Health Software EMR Vendor

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By Charlie Hutchinson

The disparity between physical and mental health when it comes to health IT adoption is staggering.

A 2014 research study from the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) discovered that health IT adoption among the state’s primary care and specialty care providers exceeded 90 percent, while other sectors, including behavioral health, had only a 55 percent adoption rate.

Despite the adoption gap, progress through Chronic Care Management (CCM) and other initiatives are presenting behavioral health providers with greater electronic medical record (EMR) implementation incentives.

With many practices beginning their EMR software and vendor evaluations, here are four primary characteristics to look for to help simplify the decision-making process.



Cloud-based system

Transitioning to an EMR system requires a clear understanding of what kind of software would work best in the clinic. There are many differences between systems in the marketplace, but deciding on the system’s delivery is crucial, and a cloud-based system stands out as the premier option for mental health practices.

  • Friendly pricing model – Cloud-based systems allow for a more flexible pricing model. Practices usually pay a monthly subscription fee, whereas on-premise systems require a lot more money up front and larger annual payments.
  • No server upkeep – Cloud-based systems also help eliminate stress regarding servers. On-premise solutions require practices to house and maintain servers, which can be very expensive in addition to annual software costs. Maintaining cloud servers, on the other hand, is completely the responsibility of the EMR/PM vendor.
  • Remote access – On-premise solutions are only accessible from — you guessed it — the practice itself. Cloud-based systems provide anytime, anywhere access, which can greatly increase office efficiency as it allows providers to work from anywhere.

Without the large, upfront investment and rigid accessibility, cloud-based solutions offer unparalleled flexibility, which can be very beneficial to first time health IT users.

Fully-integrated software

When it comes to saving time, there’s no comparison to a fully-integrated software.

A true end-to-end solution with clinical, administrative and billing workflows all connected, fully-integrated software creates a seamless flow of information from the front to the back office.

Employees are saved the trouble of re-entering patient information, making the staff more efficient and free to be more productive and engage with the in-office patients.

Furthermore, a behavioral health practice can simplify data entry, reduce errors and increase office efficiency — all of which subsequently have a positive impact on the overall patient experience.

Collaborative

In any vendor-client relationship, it’s important that collaboration is the predominant theme between the two parties. This is especially true for behavioral health practices partnering with EMR vendors.

On the practice side, commitment to a successful implementation from executive and physician leadership is crucial to a collaborative relationship with the vendor. The partnership is best positioned to succeed when all practice stakeholders are actively engaged in the software’s success.

Vendors that are collaborative with their clients and are receptive to hearing questions from users or input on how to improve the product will only stand to benefit. Both the quality of the software and the healthcare organization as a whole will progress in the long run.

Experience in Physical Health

Although behavioral health-specific systems exist, EMR vendors that possess experience in both the physical and behavioral health realms provide the most value for mental health providers, especially from a technology perspective.

Collaborative care between physicians and behavioral health providers is helping both communities bridge the gap between them. Given the technology disparity, mental health professionals that embrace EMR technology will be in better position to work with physicians in the future.

Having a vendor partner that crosses into physical health will only help collaborative care efforts for behavioral health providers because it will help tear down any technological barriers that typical exist between the two communities.

Working on similar systems will streamline the transmission of patient information and allow all involved in the collaborative care team to remain up-to-date and provide optimal whole patient care.

EMR Vendor Evaluation Prep is Key

Traditionally, implementing health IT software has been less than advantageous for behavioral health providers. However, with a shift toward offering mental health professionals incentives for EMR adoption, more behavioral health providers will be seeking out EMR systems for their practices.

For those new to evaluating EMR systems, preparation is key to making the right decision. By looking for these characteristics in the software and vendor, your mental health practice will be able to make a successful transition to electronic records.

Charlie Hutchinson is the chief financial officer of InSync Healthcare, a provider of solutions for behavioral health and primary care practices that want to focus on patients, not technology.

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