You want a steady inflow of new patients to your behavioral health practice. It keeps your business thriving. Yet every new mental health intake requires more administrative work: time spent gathering patient data, setting up a new account and/or EHR record, and entering data into the record accurately.
As your clientele and revenue grow, so does the paperwork pressure.
Streamlining behavioral health intake through the patient portal helps you break that growth/pressure cycle and expand your patient roster without also expanding admin tasks. A portal with the right features makes it easy.
The Mental Health Intake Process
From the days of filing cabinets to the present realities of EHRs, practices have struggled to get more data collected in less time with fewer mistakes. To understand how the patient portal can revolutionize the intake process, we have to dissect what the current process looks like and where its inefficiencies trip us up.
Common Intake Processes—Paperwork
Many practitioners still use paperwork at some point in their intake process. New patients fill out forms and hand them over to staff to be entered into patient records. This process may include setting up a new account in the patient portal, if the practice uses one.
Practices will commonly mail the intake paperwork to a new client ahead of time, or ask the client to arrive early to the first appointment, to have the forms completed before the first appointment. Staff might also collect some of the needed data over the phone to expedite the process. If a client doesn’t fill out paperwork ahead of time, it will necessarily eat into the time allotted for their first session.
Drawbacks of Common Intake Processes
Collecting new patient data in hard copy has its drawbacks. If a new client is filling out paperwork upon arrival at their first appointment, your staff may have to assist or answer questions in the moment while also trying to manage other responsibilities at the front desk. Mailing paperwork ahead of time cuts down on this problem, but not every client will remember to complete the forms before the visit, and some may forget to bring it with them. Additionally, someone must take time to stuff and mail the packets to each new patient.
The use of electronic tablets or pads to fill out forms in-office helps some practices eliminate the need for printing and mailing, but still requires patients to either show up early or use up some amount of time in the first session.
In each of the above scenarios, the practitioner won’t have much time to review the client’s information before the first session begins, and someone must transfer the data into the EHR.
Common Intake Questions
Intake forms seek to capture personal, financial, and health-related data about new patients. In general, this is what you can expect to see on a mental health intake form:
- Personal information: Name, date of birth, contact, etc.
- Insurance information
- Medical history
- Family history
- Social history (education, military service, past employment, social involvement, etc.)
- Medications, prescriptions, substance use
- Behavioral health history, such as previous therapy or medication
- Screening for suicide risk
- Why you are currently seeking treatment
- Current mental health symptoms
- Goals for treatment
How A Patient Portal Streamlines Mental Health Intake
A patient portal can disarm all of the pain points of intake to make your work more efficient. As a bonus, it can also encourage patient engagement with your practice.
- When a patient portal is equipped with electronic intake forms, patients can fill them out at their leisure—without waiting to receive a packet in the mail and without remembering to bring it with them to the first appointment.
- If your patient portal integrates with your EHR, the information from these intake forms can populate automatically into a new client’s records without so much as a keystroke from you or your staff. You’re saved the inevitable typos and mistakes that creep in with manual data entry.
- Intake through the patient portal cuts the time involved with printing, stuffing, and mailing envelopes, answering paperwork questions at the check-in counter, and making phone calls to gather preliminary data.
- Providers have more time to review a new client’s information ahead of the first session. Time saved at the first appointment can be put toward developing rapport with the patient and beginning a treatment plan.
How to Choose the Right Patient Portal
To make the most of an investment into a patient portal, you’ll want to choose a portal that fits your needs.
Look for the following capabilities:
- Automated intake processes. The portal should make your work easier, and that includes automation for some of your most common tasks.
- Simple setup. Setting up a new account in the patient portal shouldn’t take an advanced computer science degree. Look for a portal that offers simple steps for the average patient to follow, and that won’t require many phone calls to your staff for assistance.
- Easy messaging between patient and provider/staff. A messaging feature not only saves phone calls, it creates accessibility for new patients who may feel nervous about asking questions in person.
- HIPAA compliance. It goes without saying, but any platform that carries sensitive healthcare information must abide by privacy laws. Things like end-to-end encryption are a must.
- EHR integration. Again, if you’re going to invest in a patient portal, get one that automates your most common administrative tasks—including entering data into your records.
- User-friendly navigation. What good is a fancy new portal if none of your patients can figure out how to use it?
- Easy accessibility. A patient portal that works on desktop, on mobile, and via app offers the most convenience to the largest number of patients. This is where Valant’s new MYIO patient portal stands above the rest. It’s the only patient portal app for behavioral health, and is also accessible on desktop.
- Customizable forms. Depending on the needs of your practice, you may want to include custom fields on your intake forms. Choose a patient portal that allows flexibility in form creation.
Automation of administrative tasks has the potential to free behavioral health practices from the administrative burdens that complicate growth. When it comes to cutting the busywork involved with new client intake, the right patient portal can make all the difference.