Pitfalls of Choosing a Multi-Specialty EHR

When it comes to practice management software, you need a product built specifically for behavioral health. EHRs meant to serve multiple healthcare disciplines may not offer your practice the functionality you need to deliver the best care to patients.

Many EHR vendors will claim to have a behavioral health-specific version of their software, but a little investigation reveals no meaningful functionality for behavioral health beyond the freedom to customize. It’s easy to put the behavioral health label on flexible software, but far harder to actually serve the real-life needs of behavioral health practices.

Too many mental health clinicians have learned this the hard way. Before you purchase a multi-use EHR, consider the pitfalls they present to a behavioral health clinic.

Poor Functionality for Your Unique Needs

The details of practice management for behavioral health are distinct from other medical disciplines—and often, multi-specialty software isn’t built to accommodate those distinctions.

Billing

Billing for behavioral health treatment is complex, particularly for large clinics offering a broad scope of services. Your EHR must support a wide variety of billing codes, including codes that many other types of physicians don’t use, such as group treatment or telehealth visits. Because behavioral health patients often schedule recurring appointments, one billing misstep can compound over the weeks and lead to cash flow hiccups or surprise bills for patients.

An EHR that is built for behavioral health understands your complex billing needs and can prevent these headaches. Valant’s billing software is designed to improve efficiencies, increase accuracy, and reduce errors for mental health providers.

Scheduling

The recurring nature of behavioral health services complicates scheduling. A patient might reserve one slot on a practitioner’s schedule, or might reserve the same slot for multiple weeks in a row. Practitioners are likely booked weeks or months in advance, meaning any PTO requires extensive rescheduling. Multi-specialty EHRs mostly serve physicians who schedule patients one appointment at a time, such as dentists or podiatrists. Behavioral health EHRs, on the other hand, support the nuances of repeat scheduling.

Telehealth

The pandemic highlighted an obvious difference between behavioral health and most other fields of medicine: behavioral health can operate online to a much greater extent. Behavioral health practitioners need robust telehealth options, so much so that it makes sense to have them built right into the EHR. An EHR designed for garden-variety medical practices isn’t likely to prioritize telehealth integration. It might be added as a post-pandemic afterthought, or ignored altogether, which would leave you to find and manage a second set of software for your telehealth needs.

Behavioral health software, on the other hand, typically comes with telehealth capabilities, merging seamlessly with your scheduling, note-taking, and documentation processes.

Low Note-Taking Capacity

Generally speaking, behavioral health practitioners take more extensive notes compared to other clients served by a multi-specialty EHR company.

Your practitioners see the same patients for months or years. Each session demands detailed notes to determine patient progress or regression, to identify treatments that work and those that don’t, to record how the patient is responding, and to keep a log of what was discussed by both patient and provider.

The note taking feature of multi-specialty EHRs is built for practitioners who administer physical treatments. They have fewer variations in their treatment plans and only basic physical facts to record. A note-taking feature that serves them well might be entirely inadequate for your behavioral health needs.

Inadequate notes can become a legal liability for your practitioners if an insurance company demands to conduct an audit of treatment. To protect your clinicians, you need a system of notes that records all pertinent details of treatment.

Behavioral Health EHRs like Valant can provide that. We even offer standardized note templates that help practitioners record treatment in a format that is easily auditable.

You’re Low on the Priority List

Behavioral health makes up an estimated 7 percent of the healthcare industry, meaning generalist EHRs make 90 percent or more of their revenue from clinicians outside the behavioral health world. The specific functionality needs of your practice will sit low on their priority list. What’s more, because their support team helps clinicians from many disciplines, they won’t have deep knowledge about any one branch of healthcare, and may have had little experience helping behavioral health customers. This could mean sub-par technical support for your clinic.

Software updates may also be geared toward the needs of physical treatments, as well, and less useful to your practice, while updates that would enhance functionality for your specific processes will not be high priority for the EHR’s development team.

EHRs built for behavioral health, on the other hand, can devote all their time to managing and improving the specific tech issues that come with running a practice like yours. Valant, for example, hires tech support employees with a background in behavioral health clinics. Many worked in behavioral health billing or at the front desk. They’ve seen the types of EHR problems that can plague your administrative staff and providers.

Overwhelming Customization

Generalist EHRs will often offer customization options as the panacea to making their software work for behavioral health providers. Not only can this be expensive and time-intensive to build, but large-scale customization only complicates IT support. If tech support team members already have little experience helping behavioral health clients, they’ll be even more in the dark helping a behavioral health client who has heavily customized the software into an unfamiliar format.

Software like Valant builds from the knowledge of how most behavioral health clinics function. Valant builds a framework that makes sense for most behavioral health clinics while allowing for customization that won’t stray too far from what our tech support agents understand.

Avoid the Pitfalls by Choosing Valant

Valant’s Behavioral Health EHR can maximize your workflow, support your providers in their treatment of patients, and offer superb technical support. We are committed to staying ahead of the evolving industry trends and providing mental health practices with the technology needed to provide excellent care.

Schedule a free demonstration today to learn how Valant could enhance your behavioral health practice.


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