Electronic health record systems (EHRs) consist of patient records, practice management resources, and communication tools that can be accessed securely by authorized users.
Some EHRs integrate typical medical data like the patient's medical history, radiology reports, clinical data, medication lists, and progress notes, with behavioral health data such as care plans and treatment notes. The benefits of electronic health records tend to be viewed from a patient or caregiver perspective. However, well-planned EHRs should benefit all stakeholders.
Despite the acceptance of digital health record-keeping in general medicine and other specialties, mental health providers lag behind. According to a report in Behavioral Health Business, psychiatric hospitals are using EHRs at a rate of 46%, compared to 96% in general medicine and surgery. That number for office-based physicians practicing psychiatry is 61%, compared to over 93% in all other specialty practices.
This could be because behavioral health providers have specific needs and concerns driving the usage of EHR, patient engagement platforms, and revenue cycle management tools. In this article, we’ll uncover the top nine benefits of electronic health records and related integrated services for behavioral health and human services.
1. Supports Value-Based Payments
Traditional paper records or hard charts have scores of disadvantages. They are difficult to secure, store, maintain, retrieve, refile, and reproduce. And they may not provide the technological readiness needed to support value-based care.
As government payers phase out fee-for-service models, value-based payment (VBP) methods are becoming the default payment structure for public payers in the United States. Behavioral health systems want to invest in EHR technology that helps them deliver value.
Research shows that interoperable EHRs and patient portals may help providers deliver quality improvement, patient safety, cost efficiency, and better patient outcomes, which are some criteria for value-based reimbursement.
2. Qualifies for Financial Incentives
From 2011 to 2018, the federal government paid more than $24.8 billion from Medicare and $6 billion from Medicaid in incentive payments to healthcare providers and health delivery organizations to transition to electronic health records.
But despite financial incentives to go electronic, the digital transformation in behavioral health stalled. Early incentive programs that weren’t designed for behavioral health might explain the lack of participation.
While some of the early incentive programs have expired, it may not be too late to receive funding. If passed, the Behavioral Health Information Technologies (BHIT) Now Act will issue $250 million over a three-year period. It aims to help the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) finance EHR rollouts for human services and behavioral health systems.
3. Provides Patient Access to Records
In 1996, HIPAA was enacted, granting patients the right to maintain a copy of their protected health information. In practice, it was more difficult. For many patients, requesting the voluminous medical files detailing every encounter they had with their doctor proved to be more trouble than it was worth.
More recently, the ONC Cures Act Final Rule was enacted. This new legislation aims to give all patients digital access to their health data. It is set to go into effect on October 15, 2022.
When choosing a technology partner, keep in mind that according to an American Medical Association survey, what patients want most is convenient access to their records via a patient portal or mobile app. ContinuumCloud's cloud-based EHR features a patient portal that allows clients to access their personal health information anywhere at any time.
The patient's read-only medical record includes:
Current health issues
Up-to-date medication list
List of allergies
Past medical and surgical history
Family medical history
4. Extends Access to Care
Since the pandemic, many behavioral health providers used their EHR systems and patient engagement platforms to extend their reach. The benefits of electronic health records with tools (such as telehealth) that bridge the gap between visits are important for all stakeholders.
ContinuumCloud's EHR software improves access to care by combining telehealth and video conferencing for remote e-clinics, e-prescribing, and decision support. It can also be configured for online group therapy.
5. Improves Efficiency for Patient
Contactless check-in became popular during the pandemic and it's one feature patients don't want to give up because it saves time and keeps them out of the waiting room. An EHR system should also make life easier for your patients and your organization.
ContinuumCloud's EHR features Welligent Connect, a patient portal that decreases wait times by allowing patients to upload identification, provide insurance information, complete forms, and check in entirely online or in-app. Patients can also save time by booking or rescheduling appointments and paying their bill online.
6. Enhances Communication
Communication is fundamental to the provider-patient relationship in behavioral health. One of the most established benefits of electronic health records is improved patient-clinician communication through electronic messaging. When used appropriately and effectively, EHRs can form an integral part of that relationship-building effort.
ContinuumCloud's EHR and patient portal offers tools that facilitate patient provider communication through secure messaging, and a mobile patient engagement application that offers secure video conferencing, chat, and email.
7. Improves Continuity of Care
When patients leave inpatient care they will continue to need services. Those who continue treatment either in a day program, an intensive residential program, or an outpatient treatment program need collaborative care to continue healing, for symptom relief, and improved functioning. Unfortunately, due to healthcare silos, stigma, lack of coordination, and protracted communication, sometimes important information is missed.
One of the key features of ContinuumCloud’s EHR is interoperability. It helps connect a traditionally siloed health system by ensuring that healthcare providers have 24/7 access to the patient’s electronic medical records (EMR), behavioral care plans, treatment notes, medications, prescribing notes, and secure communication tools designed for better care coordination.
The Welligent Messenger App, a HIPAA-compliant secure mobile messaging tool enables virtual case management and coordination of care with external referral partners and internal teams.
8. Boosts Patient Engagement
Successful patient engagement hinges on patients and providers working together to enable a patient to be an active participant in their own care. We know from multiple studies that patient engagement leads to better outcomes and correlates with lower healthcare costs.
We also know that engaged patients have better outcomes because they tend to avoid practices that cause harm or worsen their conditions. Therefore, education is essential to boost engagement. EHRs that offer a patient library or curated information specific to their conditions encourages them to learn about their health from sources you trust.
Engaged patients also track their progress. Your EHR system or patient engagement platform should encourage patient-generated data — in other words, health-related data created, recorded, or gathered by patients, their family members, and caregivers.
ContinuumCloud's EHR is fully integrated with a mobile patient engagement platform. In addition to accessing their health record, learning about their condition, and contributing self-reported data, patients can also participate in moderated peer groups and communicate via a social media-like messenger app.
9. Improves Revenue Cycle Management (RCM)
In healthcare, redundancy accounts for one of the biggest wastes in terms of resource allocation. EHR systems that are integrated with RCM can help reduce redundancy by streamlining workflows and improving care coordination through automations.
One of the financial benefits of electronic health records and RCM integration is the reduction of time and resources involved in manual charge entry. It also improves the accuracy of claims, which reduces denials.
ContinuumCloud's EHR streamlines administrative workflows and improves productivity. For example, Welligent Chat connects the front office, the back office, and clinicians. Users can save time and reduce emails by chatting directly with anyone who has EHR access.
ContinuumCloud helps manage the revenue cycle more efficiently by integrating EHR. Automation of data entry results in more accurate billing and reduces lost charges, charge lag days, and insurance denials that occur because of late filing.
Discover Even More Benefits of Electronic Health Records
An EHR is much more than a digital version of a patient's paper chart. Implementing an EHR system specifically designed for behavioral health and human services has many benefits for all stakeholders.
ContinuumCloud’s comprehensive EHR, patient engagement, and revenue cycle management products are created to provide benefits like support for value-based care, meet criteria for financial incentives, improve efficiency for patients and staff, enhance communication and continuity of care, boost patient engagement, and integrate with revenue cycle management software.
To speak to a behavioral health IT expert and create a digital transformation plan designed for your business, connect with us today.