A group practice of behavioral health providers offers many benefits to patients. It allows them to access the expertise of multiple providers across a range of specialties and can be a one-stop shop for therapy and prescription drugs to manage symptoms.
Yet group practices come with their own challenges, one of the greatest being communication. Practitioners who work alone handle all aspects of patient care and billing, but the roles required in a behavioral health group practice include various types of employees who handle different aspects of the patient experience and revenue cycle. As the patient is “handed off” to these various employees, tasks and information may fall through the cracks.
The daily operations of a group practice must be carefully managed to avoid this. A strong EHR solution can ensure that everyone at your practice, no matter their role, has access to the same patient information.
Who are the employees at a behavioral health group practice, and how should an EHR support each of them?
Behavioral Health Group Practice Roles – Front Office
Front Desk Staff
Front desk staff carry the responsibility of making first impressions. They are the initial touchpoint for new patients, and they’ll manage the patient intake process and scheduling. Front desk staff are authorized to collect payments and send invoices. They should be good communicators willing to answer questions and help solve problems.
These personnel collect new patient information and create their profile within your EHR system. In a well-designed EHR, this profile will become the single source of truth for that patient’s records, tying to their treatment notes, billing statements, appointment scheduling, and more. Some practices use separate software solutions for different aspects of practice management and input patient information separately in each, although this opens the door to mistakes and outdated information later on.
For scheduling, your staff needs a common calendar with real-time updates and an easy way to spot scheduling conflicts. Ideally, they’ll be able to view the calendar as a whole, by provider, by facility, etc, and accept payments through the scheduler. Features like color coding can help them stay organized as they work to optimize each provider’s schedule.
The intake process might also include creating a new patient account in the patient portal, if your practice uses one. Here again, it’s easiest if your EHR and patient portal share information so staff don’t have to input everything twice and risk discrepancies.
Those at the front desk will need to hand off payment/invoice records to the billing department. If your EHR includes billing, billers can likely pull what they need from the patient profile, but if not, you’ll need to arrange another workflow solution to transfer the information regularly and reliably.
Whether you have an office/practice manager will depend on the size and organization of your practice. The duties of office manager can overlap with front desk staff and billers. They may:
- Monitor accounts payable
- Manage staff timecards
- Order office supplies
- Take minutes at staff meetings
- Monitor compliance with government regulations
- Maintain patient records
- Manage billing and coding
- Provide administrative oversight for the staff
An office manager will know their way around most of the functions of your EHR and other software systems.
Clients will spend the most time with your practitioners. Practitioners may hold the title of counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, clinical social worker, nurse practitioner, or physician.
These providers assess and diagnose behavioral health challenges and create a treatment plan for each patient. They will take careful notes at every clinical encounter to create a record of client progress. Depending on your practice’s methodology, this may or may not include tracking patient outcome measures. Psychiatrists and physicians will prescribe medication as needed to help manage patient symptoms, either by writing out a prescription for the patient or sending a prescription order electronically to the pharmacy.
Practitioners should be well-versed in managing both in-person and telehealth visits, as well as the scheduling process, since they will likely schedule follow-up appointments with existing patients. To prevent scheduling conflicts, they will need access to the same calendar the front desk staff use.
Your EHR should make the clinicians’ job as easy as possible so they can focus their energy on patients. Solid integration between patient records and the EHR’s note-taking feature is key so your providers won’t have to transfer information back and forth. You may also need integration with your telehealth feature for the same reason. A helpful note-taking program will present providers with quick methods to record patient symptoms and common treatment activities, but also leave room for the provider to add their own commentary. Make sure they can access critical information like drug interaction screening and PDMP databases without hassle.
It’s also worth considering whether your EHR allows practitioners to record outcome measures. Measurement-based care provides an objective view of patient progress and can net your practice higher reimbursement when used to negotiate with insurance providers. When your EHR tracks measurement outcomes for you, therapists can review treatment efficacy on a regular basis with minimal effort. Otherwise, you’ll have to devise a system to file and evaluate all collected outcome measures.
For each completed appointment, a practitioner will send information to your biller(s) to let them know which services to bill insurance for. This step in the process lends itself to miscommunication. Practitioners forget to send bills, or send them with mistakes or incomplete documentation. The process to submit bills through your EHR should be clear and easy, with reminders about unfinished bills and filters in place to ensure that incorrectly documented bills don’t slip through.
At this point, the provider’s work is done and the back office takes over.
Behind the scenes, billers manage the revenue cycle. They will handle insurance claims and check for correct documentation, monitor incoming payments from insurance providers, and create billing statements for patients. They need practitioners to send bills in a timely fashion, so it’s easiest if your EHR can auto-generate bills when a provider documents an appointment. This speeds the billing process along.
Insurance companies can be slow to pay. An effective billing team will monitor overdue claims and practice diligence in following up. They’ll need an eye for detail (and strong filters in the EHR) so that bills aren’t submitted with mistakes or missing information. Although many practices use separate billing software and practice management solutions, an all-in-one EHR will save billers the most time.
When the back office bills patients, they’ll need a clear avenue for communication. Some practices use patient portal alerts to advise a patient of their bill, some still send paper copies via mail.
With so many individuals caring for patients and managing accounts across roles at a behavioral health group practice, a robust EHR system is critical for success practices.
If you have separate software for features like billing, telehealth, patient portals, or others, you’ll need smooth, bidirectional integration for best results.
Or, consider switching to an EHR that offers all the features you need in one package. You can manage the entire revenue lifecycle front-to-back, from a patient’s first phone call to their last bill, with all-in-one software. This drastically cuts down on the opportunity for miscommunication at your group practice.
How Valant Can Help
Valant software delivers a full suite of interconnected functions built specifically for behavioral health practices. Effortless communication between patient profiles, scheduling, documentation, billing, and more keep your practice orderly and efficient.
Contact Valant today to learn how we can help your group practice.