EHR Goals for a Behavioral Health Practice

Improving your success metrics in five steps

What gets you out of bed and over to your practice each morning? Odds are that you think about something like meaningful work with your clients and the success of your practice as a business. But whatever your specific goals may be, how well you’re able to leverage your EHR system is also coupled with your ultimate success as a behavioral health professional.

It’s not always easy to tell how well an EHR is performing, especially when each practice is operating within a unique scope and has different success metrics. Furthermore, familiarity with current systems or fear of change can make practices reluctant to evaluate newer, more effective solutions.
How can you tell if your EHR is good enough? For practices that are serious about their EHR goals, it is important to identify whether or not their current solutions are truly getting them to where they want to be. The following is a list of five steps practices should take.

1. Does it help your efficiency?
Workflow efficiency is one of the essential EHR goals that practices should aspire to. The mark of a quality EHR is its ability to tighten up areas of inefficiency within the practice. Scheduling, appointment reminders, documentation, and claims submission are a few examples of where the EHR can either help or hinder workflow efficiency. If providers find themselves spending a lot of time after hours or budgeting weekend time just to get caught up, the EHR is clearly not pulling its weight. To gain clarity on how efficient your practice is on a day-to-day basis, take our private practice efficiency quiz in our blog post, “How Efficient is my Private Practice?“.

2. Is your EHR relevant to your practice today (and tomorrow)?
The healthcare industry is constantly changing, particularly in regards to technology and regulation. What might have worked well a few of years ago may be struggling to keep up with the demands of today or downright irrelevant. Achieving EHR goals means determining how well the EHR solution still serves the practice. It is a matter of assessing how the headcount has changed since the practice’s founding, how technology on the whole has changed, and how regulation has changed. To find out if you’re outgrowing your EHR, check out our blog post, “Signs You’re Outgrowing Your EHR.”

3. Is your EHR cost-efficient?
Once the practice has decided to get a new EHR, how should it prepare its finances? Budgeting for an EHR can be a big challenge, particularly for the first-time buyer, but maintaining awareness of three major issues will prevent the practice from encountering any unpleasantries.

First, understand the nature of the EHR solution. Is it hosted, or does it follow a more traditional licensing model on a client server? This will largely determine how the vendor manages maintenance and product enhancements.

Next, be mindful of how productivity might be affected during the transition. Adopting a new system is disruptive to the typical ebb and flow of business in most cases, and though specialized training often exists to mitigate productivity loss, practices should always expect to encounter at least some disruption.

Finally, remember that return on investment takes time. Initial costs can seem daunting, but over time as the practice acclimates and the EHR starts producing real value returns will be realized. If that wasn’t enough info on budget strategy, we’ve got more in our blog post, “What to Consider when Budgeting for an EHR.”

4. Evaluating your EHR options
Deciding on the right solution is a very important decision for achieving EHR goals. There are a lot of options out there that, quite frankly, make the process a little overwhelming. Choosing the right EHR is a matter of self-assessment, goals and planning, and vendor evaluation, all of which are discussed in greater detail in our EHR Buyer’s Guide for Private Practices, available for download.

5. What to expect when making the switch
Costs that arise during the transition from one EHR to another are sometimes difficult to predict and catch practice owners off guard. These surprises often occur during certain parts of the transitory process, such as when terminating existing contracts, paying larger up-front fees for the new product, losing productivity during the transition, or migrating patient data.

Practice owners must be aware of a few crucial dynamics in order to prevent unpleasant surprises. Be very clear as to what the practice might still be on the hook for as the old system is sunsetted. (Are there termination fees, for example?) Inversely, getting started with a new system is likely to incur one-time startup fees. Ask how the new vendor handles key services, such as implementation, training, and data imports. Depending on the vendor, they may or may not be included in the initial contract. Our blog post, “What to Expect When Switching Behavioral Health EHRs” is a great piece to bookmark and come back to throughout your search.

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