Clinicians working in the behavioral health and human services field have a lot to juggle. From patient engagement to records and billing, a lot of dedicated work and care goes into helping patients receive the tools and treatment they need to lead happier and healthier lives.
However, many behavioral health practices are still using outdated methods. By failing to adopt available technology, including behavioral health electronic health records (EHRs), they are slowing down their workflows and creating a larger burden on providers. While 96% of general medicine and surgical practices use EHRs, only 46% of psychiatric hospitals and 61% of psychiatry offices do. This creates more work for clinicians and can impede collaboration between behavioral health providers and other medical providers.
Behavioral health EHRs provide a modernized option for managing patient records, streamlining an organization’s workflows, and supporting the unique needs of different behavioral health specialties. If your organization hasn’t made the switch yet, here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Behavioral Health EHR?
Behavioral health EHRs are electronic health record systems designed to meet the specific needs of behavioral health providers. Behavioral health EHR software is a comprehensive solution that goes beyond the services offered by electronic medical records (EMR) software. They offer providers a secure way to store and access patient records digitally and provide tools to boost communication and collaboration with patients and other members of the treatment team.
Behavioral health EHRs can help providers across several specialties, including:
- Mental health professionals
- Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs
- Substance use and addiction counselors
- Special education
- Foster care service providers
- Early intervention specialists
- Developmental disabilities
- Student health services
In behavioral health, teams often need to work even more closely with one another to develop and track patient treatment plans. For example, patients may have a psychiatrist, therapist, and primary care physician who all need to communicate about treatment. Having a centralized communication portal where each member of the care team has access to assessment, progress notes, therapy notes, and other clinical documentation keeps everyone in the loop while ensuring that patient information is stored securely.
Features to Look For in a Behavioral Health EHR
Since EHRs are comprehensive solutions for behavioral healthcare, they generally offer a wide range of features. Sorting through all of the offerings can be a bit overwhelming, so here’s a simplified list of the most important features to look for in a behavioral health EHR:
- Electronic Health Record: EHRs allow providers to create, store, and access forms and patient records.
- Patient Portal: Patient portals are a secure HIPAA-compliant space to manage patient communications and allow patients to access their records.
- Chat or Messaging Features: Look for chat or messaging tools that allow treatment providers to easily communicate with one another in a centralized location.
- Telehealth and Telemedicine Support: Video chatting capabilities, patient messaging, appointment scheduling, and e-prescribing tools allow providers to connect with patients without an in-person office visit. Telehealth features are especially important in behavioral health, as it is one of the specialties that has seen the most growth in telemedicine. In 2020, one-third of behavioral health appointments for Medicare patients occurred over telehealth compared to only 8% of primary care visits. Investing in software with telehealth support will help you meet this increasing demand for virtual services.
- Mobile Support: EHR mobile applications allow patients and providers to access the platform from their smartphones for convenient scheduling and communication. You can take a look at the ContinuumCloud EHR app for an overview of the functionality and features of an EHR mobile app.
- Reporting Features: Gain access to detailed data reports to streamline revenue management and make better decisions as a company.
In addition to these key features, consider both the patient and employee experience. Each of these functions within the EHR should be user-friendly so that everyone has a positive experience. You can also check out the features available in ContinuumCloud’s EHR solution to learn more about how to get the most out of EHR software.
How to Choose a Behavioral Health EHR
There are many EHRs on the market, but providers must exercise care in choosing the right one to meet their needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your EHR options.
Look for solutions designed specifically for the behavioral health field rather than general medical EHRs
Unlike a general medical EHR, a behavioral health EHR will have specialty-specific tools that fit your workflows, including clinical documentation tools, templates for common forms or assessments (such as the SPS scale), and stronger care coordination features.
Identify your individualized needs
Identify the top concerns for your practice. Each specialty, office, and team has its own workflows and operational needs. If you’ve pivoted more of your practice to telemedicine over the past few years, as many providers have, pay extra attention to the features offered for telehealth patients and providers.
Also, consider any existing tools that you use. Many behavioral health EHRs can integrate with other electronic tools and programs. For example, ContinuumCloud offers a number of integrations and third-party add-ons. If you have medical billing software, Medicaid, or insurance eligibility tools, or other practice management software that you’d like to coordinate with your chosen EHR, be sure to ask each vendor about integrations.
Choose a service with a personalized and responsive customer support team
Technical difficulties should never get in the way of patient care. If anyone on your team runs into a problem or needs a little help figuring out a feature, prompt support is imperative. ContinuumCloud’s customer support and training teams are always there to offer product training, refreshers on best practices, and ongoing support.
Discuss what the onboarding and implementation process will look like with each prospective vendor
A thorough implementation sets your organization up for success. One of the most common obstacles that behavioral healthcare providers have faced in adopting EHRs is a training and skill gap within the field.
A recent study found that some of the biggest barriers in adopting a mental health EHR were a steep learning curve, the complexity of the EHR systems, lack of computer literacy, and resistance from staff. You can mitigate many of these issues by ensuring that your staff receives proper training and support throughout the onboarding process. Include hands-on training and guidance from live onboarding staff who can directly address any concerns your team members have.
Get Started With a Behavioral Health EHR
Electronic health records allow providers to streamline their processes so they can spend less time on administrative tasks and focus more on engaging with their patients. While the field has been slower to adopt EHRs, now is a great time for practices to dive in and get started. Using a behavioral health EHR helps providers meet the needs of today’s patients by offering mobile support, telehealth solutions, and more.
Get in touch to learn more about ContinuumCloud’s EHR solutions and start your journey towards a modernized approach to behavioral health.