In the late 1960s, the EMR software system began as a small and cutting-edge idea of recording patient information in digital form, instead of on paper.[1] The point of the old EMR system was to have a third-party independently review and verify a patient’s diagnosis. When this system first began, mental health care professionals had few options and choices for meeting the needs of their clinical practice. Fortunately, things have changed.

Today, there is a range of different behavioral health software programs that can meet the needs of almost any practice. And as specialty clinics swiftly become more popular with patients, the need for custom behavioral health system programs is clear.

EMRs vs. EHRs

Both Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR) Systems are digital records containing a patient’s health data.[2]

Similarities and Differences

EMRs are essentially digital medical records from a single practice, such as a behavioral health clinic, or a family practitioner’s office. Typically, the record stays within that practice and is not easily shared, and it offers “full interoperability within an enterprise (hospital, clinic, practice)”[3][4]

EHRs, on the other hand, are digital versions of a patient’s entire chart offering a more holistic spectrum of their full medical history.[5] EHRs can be thought of as a catch-all term for all electronic patient care systems.[3]

When they comply with modern regulatory requirements, EHRs are generally secure and can offer reliable patient privacy and security.

Contrary to EMRs, the data in the EHR is available immediately to all authorized users involved in a patient’s care, potentially spanning more than one healthcare organization. For example, an EHR could be accessed simultaneously by a behavioral health clinic, laboratory and emergency services, to name a few. It gives the team of treating clinicians a more conceptual view of the patient’s needs, history, diagnosis, and treatment.

When they comply with modern regulatory requirements, EHRs are generally secure and can offer reliable patient privacy and security.[6]

Why Switch From EMR to EHR?

An EHR provides a simplified, safer and faster way of sharing health data.

With systems putting ever more data at the fingertips of the behavioral therapist, there’s a greater likelihood that EHRs can enable more accurate diagnoses and thus, the creation of more personalized treatment plans. Of course, the therapist’s own skill still plays a crucial role in the efficacy of such a system.

An EHR, by design, is also intended to[6]:

  • Improve practitioners’ workflow efficiency
  • Reduce admin-time
  • Help control human error, and
  • Make it easier to consult and communicate with specialists from outside of the practice.

However, in practice, the extent of an EHR’s success at achieving these goals can be impeded by several factors. Many barriers to adoption and smooth integration often prevent practitioners and institutions from realizing these benefits, including[7]:

  • Perceived and actual time costs of learning and implementing the EHR system
  • A lack of technical support around how to use the system, and
  • Large financial capital requirements preventing their integration and proper use in healthcare organizations.

Blended care clinicians who have historically used EMR systems, including behavioral health and mental health care practitioners, are increasingly finding that EHR systems can be more easily customizable to their specific needs.

As a result, EHR software systems are adapting and a variety of specialized behavioral health EHR software systems are coming to market to help practitioners upgrade their patient medical health records.

How To Implement EHR Programs

If you’re a behavioral health practitioner looking to implement EHR software programs into your virtual care delivery, you can start with at least two essential steps to make sure you’re choosing the right software for high-quality care.

1. Identify Your Practice Needs

Assessing the clinic’s needs is the first step to finding a suitable EHR software program. A good grasp of the organization’s requirements for the EHR software will help you identify the right vendor, get the right price, and avoid overpaying for applications that waste money and won’t benefit the organization.

For instance:

  • How large is your organization? Will more than one practitioner be requiring access to a patient’s medical records for smoother healthcare delivery?
  • What are your budget constraints? As a start-up or sole trader, remember that EHR systems often come with high upfront costs, followed by investments in maintenance, support, and services.
  • How much functionality do you require? Is it important for you to synchronize different sources of information, such as insurance records, notes from past e-therapy sessions, or patient health data from mobile apps?

2. Evaluate the Vendor

Your list of practice needs will easily enable you to create a list of EHR program requirements. From here, you can use this checklist to narrow down your options to reputable vendors whose programs will meet the practice’s specific needs and budgetary requirements.

If your EHR system comes with additional functions as part of a larger package – video therapy capabilities, for instance – it helps to see whether your vendor is 3rd-party approved with regard to privacy, ethical, and security requirements such as using HIPAA-compliant or HITECH-approved software.[8][9][10]

Choosing User-Friendly Behavioral Health Software

Behavioral health clinicians will need to understand what their users will want from the software once it’s established. Ideally, this should be part of the decision-making process when shopping for an EHR or any telemedicine platform.

Research shows that clinicians who don’t find it easy to use the program are less likely to do so, so avoid clunky, hard-to-use or impractical systems wherever possible. This is more likely to waste valuable time and resources with regard to wasted upfront costs and on the backend of the purchase.

One way to go about choosing an EHR system is to ask users what they like and dislike about the current EMR or EHR system that’s already in place.

  • What features would users enjoy seeing with the new EHR system?
  • How might they like to interact with it on different devices?
  • And, why are they looking for specific capabilities in a new EHR system?

Choosing a Behavioral Health EHR: Mistakes to Avoid

One of the biggest mistakes that clinicians make when choosing new EHR systems is not listening to their staff members who are on the frontlines of patient care, treatment, and administrative tasks.[11]

Organizations that make this mistake often end up paying for an EHR that their clinicians don’t understand, and either can’t or are reluctant to make use of.[12][7]

While it’s a common mistake made by many healthcare providers, fortunately, it’s also an easy one to avoid. When searching for new software applications and resources, practices should learn what their behavioral health clinic’s unique needs are and the issues they’ve faced with their current software systems.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise Behavioral Health Systems

Modern technology for EHR software is following a distinct trend, and clinicians need to be aware of it when choosing a program. Behavioral health software systems can either be cloud-based or centered on-premise. Both types of healthcare or therapy platform have their unique benefits and advantages, but one may suit a particular practice more than the other.[13]

What Suits Your Practice?

Let’s consider a few examples:

  • Smaller facilities, like community care centers, tend to benefit more from cloud-based applications.
  • Large organizations, such as outpatient facilities and hospitals, may need to center their EHR software programs on-site.
  • Cloud-based systems are also cheaper to opt-into and also maintain, which is also a significant benefit for smaller companies. However, adding on specific applications to an existing cloud-based system will increase the overall price.
  • On-premise systems are a more expensive option because organizations will have to manage the system themselves, and also update the system.
  • Finally, with cloud-based technology, vendors handle this aspect for the organization.

Learn more about the difference between cloud-based and on-premise therapy software and platforms in our article: Therapy Apps: Choosing the Right Therapist App for Your Practice.

For many practitioners, it can be challenging to weigh the different benefits and aspects of each EHR system. But comparing various benefits and vendors against an organization’s needs, size, and budget can help narrow down which EHR program is best for the behavioral health center.

EHRs make it much easier for practices, both large and small, to share their patient’s records, create efficient billing processes, and make relevant patient information more accessible to users on different devices.

3 Best EHR and Behavioral Health Systems To Try

Each of the following EHR and EMR programs will make treatment systems, billing, and patient care management easier. All of the following software programs listed for behavioral health clinics utilize cloud-based technology.

Behavioral Health System and EHR

Details

CureMD Behavioral Health System CureMD EHR is a behavioral health system software for practices of all sizes, offering components for substance abuse treatment and care, case management, diagnostics, and prescription management.

Other features include:

  • ePrescriptions
  • Digitized labs
  • Speech recognition software
  • Clinical documentation
  • Workflow automation capabilities

CureMD also includes a database of medications for their ePrescriptions with over 40k pharmacy connections. It uses Surescripts to enable:

  • Order processing
  • Refilling
  • Mailing orders

CureMD also has integrated cloud-based scheduling tools so clinicians can set and manage appointments across several locations. Expect color-coded schedules, patients and clinician alerts for appointments times, and insurance verifying capabilities, along with:

  • Full integration between EHRs and practice management programs
  • Patient portals, and
  • Analytics
NameCureMD
PriceOn Request
Good ForePrescriptions, Diagnostics, Client Interface, Practice Management
Websitehttps://www.curemd.com/ehr.asp

 

Behavioral Health System and EHR

Details

AdvancedMD Behavioral Health SystemAdvancedMD is one of the most popular behavioral health system solutions because it offers such a wide range of functions for an affordable price, such as

  • Practice management software
  • Revenue cycle management
  • Financial reporting capabilities.

The program also includes mental health billing options and codes, including ICD-10 diagnostic codes, helping clinicians more efficiently manage their organization.

The ePrescription tool in AdvancedMD EHR lets users not just review the prescription requests, but it also gives them the ability to sign for the prescriptions electronically. This is incredibly convenient for users.

Also look out for:

  • Patient portals
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Messaging capabilities
  • Bill paying
  • Telemedicine or eTherapy

It also includes customizable patient note templates and secure EHR.

NameAdvancedMD
PriceOn Request
Good ForTelepsychiatry, Practice Management, EHR
Websitehttps://www.advancedmd.com/emr-ehr-software/

 

Behavioral Health System and EHR

Details

TherapyNotes Behavioral Health SolutionsTherapyNotes EMR is an ideal EMR software program for clinical providers of all sizes, offering:

  • Scheduling
  • Billing and claims management
  • Patient portal
  • Tech support
  • To-do lists
  • Clinical documentation

Providers will have access to both an EMR system and a practice management system.

The system is designed to track provider’s schedules, billing, and patient appointments all within the software. Other billing features include:

  • Credit, debit, and HSA card processing
  • One-click electronic claims submissions
  • Ability to generate patient statements
  • Direct receipts for Electronic Remittance Advice (applies to select insurance companies)
  • Superbills
  • Financial reports
  • CMS 1500 forms

Clinicians can also take advantage of the program’s form-based note templates. These templates include options for social work, psychiatry, counseling, therapy, and psychology. Clinicians can use the templates for a variety of tasks, including treatment plans, evaluations, and progress notes.

NameTherapyNotes
PriceOn Request
Good ForEHR, Practice Management, Billing
Websitehttps://www.therapynotes.com/

Final Thoughts

Today’s behavioral health providers have access to a wide variety of EMR and EHR systems. Having so many choices can be overwhelming. This guide should give providers an idea of where and how to start looking for a software solution.

Ultimately though, a mental health provider will need to choose an EHR or EMR program that adheres to their requirements and facility’s unique needs. Narrowing down their specific requirements will make it easier to shop for a vendor. Preparation and research are the keys to getting this right.

Each behavioral health practice has its own specific clinical treatment styles and workflow patterns. Also, every facility will have its own administrative bottlenecks to address and fix with integrated, convenient software systems. Thoroughly vetting the organization’s needs against the vendor’s offerings and the software’s capabilities will make the investment a success.

Has your behavioral health practice implemented a new EHR system? How did you choose the right vendor for your organization, and what advice would you give others beginning this journey? Please let us know what you think in the comments.

References

  1. ^ HealthIT.gov. (2020). What are Electronic Health Records? Retrieved from https://www.healthit.gov/topic/health-it-and-health-information-exchange-basics/what-are-electronic-health-records-ehrs
  2. ^ Institute of Medicine. (2003). Key capabilities of an electronic health record system. Retrieved from http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2003/Key-Capabilities-of-anElectronic-Health-Record-System.aspx
  3. ^ Waegemann, C. P. (2003). Ehr vs. CPR vs. EMR. Healthcare Informatics Online, 1, 1.
  4. ^ Wasserman, R. C. (2011). Electronic medical records (EMRs), epidemiology, and epistemology: reflections on EMRs and future pediatric clinical research. Academic Pediatrics, 11(4), 280.
  5. ^ Boonstra, A., Versluis, A., & Vos, J. F. (2014). Implementing electronic health records in hospitals: a systematic literature review. BMC Health Services Research, 14(1), 370.
  6. ^ Fernández-Alemán, J. L., Señor, I. C., Lozoya, P. Á. O., & Toval, A. (2013). Security and privacy in electronic health records: A systematic literature review. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 46(3), 541.
  7. ^ Leung, G. M., Yu, P. L., Wong, I. O., Johnston, J. M., & Tin, K. Y. (2003). Incentives and barriers that influence clinical computerization in Hong Kong: a population-based physician survey. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 10(2), 201.
  8. ^ HIPAA Journal. (2019). The Most Common HIPAA Violations You Should Be Aware Of. Retrieved from https://www.hipaajournal.com/common-hipaa-violations/
  9. ^ HITECH (2009). HITECH Act Enforcement Interim Final Rule. Retrieved from: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/hitech-act-enforcement-interim-final-rule/index.html
  10. ^ United States. (2004). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.
  11. ^ Ajami, S., & Arab-Chadegani, R. (2013). Barriers to implement electronic health records (EHRs). Materia Socio-medica, 25(3), 213.
  12. ^ Poissant, L., Pereira, J., Tamblyn, R., & Kawasumi, Y. (2005). The impact of electronic health records on time efficiency of physicians and nurses: a systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 12(5), 505.
  13. ^ Adibi, S., Wickramasinghe, N., & Chan, C. (2013). CCmH The cloud computing paradigm for mobile health (mHealth). The International Journal of Soft Computing and Software Engineering, 3(3), 403.

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