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Regulatory compliance is an ongoing challenge for private behavioral health practices. Different practices have different ways of ensuring compliance, and traditionally, enforcement has been subsumed into a supervisory or quality assurance role. But quality control in mental health often creates a workplace dynamic that feels a lot like babysitting, which is neither pleasant for clinicians nor supervisors.

At times practices need to be pragmatic in determining priorities, and for most, regulatory compliance seems more mission critical than creating a positive office culture. But in the spirit of pragmatism, practice owners must also account for the ways in which manual, high-touch compliance enforcement is actually working against the practice in the long run.

To err is human

Time-consuming, manual effort is not an ideal way to handle compliance or quality control when software automation is an option. People invariably make mistakes, no matter how well-meaning they are or how thoroughly protocols are established (we’re only human, after all). And there’s obviously a lot at stake when mistakes do occur—they could result in delayed payments, confusion when collaborating internally or externally, or unnecessary complications during an audit.

Another problem to consider is how much time quality control in mental health demands. Extra pairs of eyes add additional steps to the clinical workflow process. Time spent reviewing documentation is substantial, and could be otherwise used to bring value to the practice in more tangible ways.

Standardization improves throughput

A lack of standardization complicates the vetting process. Paper-based documentation is as diverse as the hands that write it, for clinicians have different perspectives, styles, and lexicons. Sometimes this is necessary, as specialty clinicians provide care that requires a nuanced interpretation to help the patient, but more often than not writing styles become a noisy distraction of individual differences, regardless of the provider and patient in the room.

Without some form of standardization, supervisors will need to account for the nuances of each clinician’s note taking style when evaluating quality, making an already notable time commitment to quality control in mental health take even longer.

Cognitive overhead

Much of the cognitive overhead involved in quality assurance can (and should) be handled by software automation. With software, quality checks occur in real time and work in tandem with the clinical workflow process. EHR software can track upcoming documentation, documentation not started or finished, and documentation past due—no more chasing down paperwork if an audit occurs. Provided the software is up to date with any pertinent regulatory guidance, there is no need to revisit documentation in as thorough a fashion (or even at all, depending on the EHR). Templates and drop-down selection fields in lieu of “fill in the blank” standardize data entry, making notes easier to write and read. With the right EHR in place, director and C-level personnel can focus on responsibilities more befitting of their respective roles.

Private behavioral health practices should never have to feel like they are babysitting their clinicians by micromanaging compliance. The right EHR solution can help practices smooth out areas of inefficiency, protect against severe complications, and contribute to an overall improved office culture.