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Are you considering customizations to your EHR? Behavioral health practices frequently find that they need customizations to better support their work. That’s because many EHRs are “generalist” systems, designed to fit the needs of your average physical healthcare discipline.

Using a specialty-specific EHR designed for behavioral health can minimize the need for customizations, saving you time and hassle. If you’re unfamiliar with EHRs built for mental healthcare, here’s an overview of how they stack up against general purpose EHR customization.

What Is a Behavioral Health-Specific EHR?

EHR systems that are built for mental health have features and workflows that are tailored to the way mental health practices run, and the way that mental health providers treat patients. These EHRs may have features like:

Behavioral health software is built from the ground up to make your staff more efficient and to ease your clinician’s workload.

Frequent Customization Needs for Behavioral Health

There are a few common customizations that mental health practices often need to a multi-specialty EHR. These customizations are usually related to basic functions of a behavioral healthcare practice that a physical healthcare practice wouldn’t share.

Templates for Notes and Treatment Planning

Many therapists and psychiatrists find that templates for therapy notes and treatment planning make work go faster, but these templates aren’t generally available in the average EHR. Software designed with physical health in mind is more likely to have limited note-taking features in favor of more data fields, which can make it hard to capture the nuances of a mental health journey.

Using the existing notes system in a multi-specialty software can be time-consuming and fall short of HIPAA security standards, so mental health practices often have to work with their software provider to create the templates they need.


Most physical healthcare providers don’t need to schedule regular, ongoing appointments with the majority of their patients, but of course, this is exactly how mental health clinicians schedule. In addition, group therapy and family or couples therapy may require scheduling appointments for multiple individuals at a time. Adjustments to the scheduling process are a common request from those who use generalist software to run their behavioral health practice.


The billing process for behavioral health may need adjustments, as providers typically need to submit progress notes to insurance along with the bill, and will need access to a comprehensive library of behavioral health diagnostic codes—especially if they want to maximize reimbursement for every service provided at an appointment.

Security for Therapy Notes

Data security for therapy notes must meet a high bar, which may be a concern with EHRs for physical health disciplines. Some mental health clinics try to work around this by getting data segmentation customized into their EHR or inventing other work-arounds to keep the therapy notes separate from less sensitive records.

Switching to a Behavioral Health EHR

With a well-built EHR for behavioral health, most of these customizations will be unnecessary, because they come built into the system. If you’re considering customization, you may want to explore finding a specialty-specific EHR that already has what you need.

Of course, navigating an EHR switch is a challenge, but implementation best practices can smooth the process and create a more positive transition for everyone. Check out the following resources to help you navigate the process with confidence.

How to Ease Your Patients’ Transition While You Switch EHRs

The Benefits of Having Empathy While Adopting a New EHR Software

EHR Implementation Best Practices

EHR Training: The Importance of EHR Training at Your Private Practice

The EHR Migration Project Plan Template

Choose the Right Specialty-Specific EHR Vendor

As you shop for an EHR vendor, you should assess some essential criteria. These are make-or-break issues that separate a good EHR vendor from a poor one.

Here’s what to look for:

  • User-friendly interface. It should be fast, intuitive, and built to simplify workflows.
  • Responsive customer support. You will have questions and need occasional guidance, so customer support should be able to respond quickly and give you personalized assistance.
  • Adherence to industry regulations. Is the software HIPAA compliant? Will it have adequate protections for therapy notes?
  • Strong technology features that support scaling.
  • Positive reputation. You can’t fully understand the pros and cons of a system until you’ve used it, so a history of satisfied customers is important for any EHR company you might consider.

Customizing a Behavioral Health EHR

Of course, any good EHR must still be able to support customizations, even if it is built specifically for your discipline. Your behavioral health practice may have highly unique programs, documentation requirements, or reporting needs that require a few tailor-made solutions. This is why it’s important to choose a company with a responsive support team.

Consider these examples of customization success within a behavioral health EHR:

  • Betts Psychiatric prides itself on highly personalized care that includes every aspect of a patient’s mental health journey, from therapy to assessments to prescriptions. In an effort to improve this process, Betts Psychiatric added psychometric testing to its offerings. This type of testing requires specific forms, which they were able to have customized through Valant software. This will support them in expanding their offerings and growing their practice.
  • The Mount Diablo School District had to follow the rules of the county health department and submit very specific documentation for progress notes, billing, informed consent, and more. This specific documentation was adding about 5-10 hours of work per month for each biller and about 15 hours per month per provider. Thanks to Valant’s customization, templates now help counselors and billers capture and report on information more quickly. The workload is less hectic, and counselors have an easier time staying ahead of their work.

To Customize, or Specialize?

Before jumping into customizations on a multi-specialty EHR, consider whether a specialty-specific EHR might be what you need. Behavioral health EHRs are built with many of the templates, scheduling abilities, data security, and billing functionality that you may be looking for.

If and when you decide to switch vendors, explore reputable companies with strong user reviews—and, once you’ve settled on a company, do leverage any customizations you still need in order to optimize your practice workflows.