Skip to main content

Your electronic health record (EHR) system is the heartbeat of your behavioral health practice, facilitating your interactions with patients, payers, colleagues, and staff. Selecting the right EHR vendor can be the difference between a disorderly, unmanageable practice and one that flows smoothly and meets all your stakeholders’ needs. So you’ll want to ask the right questions when selecting an EHR.

An EHR that is specifically intended for behavioral health practices can offer important features, such as better clinical documentation, tailored billing functionality, and a high-quality patient portal. When deciding how to select an EHR, it may be helpful to consider the following questions from the perspectives of various roles in a practice: Administrators, providers, front-office staff, and back-office staff.

Questions for Administrators When Selecting an EHR

Key questions for administrators include details on implementation and training/support:

1. How does the EHR adapt to the specific needs of our behavioral health practice?

Is the EHR modular? Does it offer the features we need in a functional manner? Does it have a proven track record of satisfied customers—particularly, practices of similar size, customer base, and specialty?

2. What kind of training and support does the EHR vendor offer during implementation and beyond?

Does the vendor offer items such as live webinars, self-paced lessons, and a robust knowledge base? Will we have a point person with the vendor who can help us solve hiccups quickly, as they arise? Will this person understand our business and our concerns? Is this included in the cost? The answer to all these questions and more should be, “yes!”

Questions for Providers to Ask When Selecting an EHR

Key questions for providers center on workflow and usability for diagnosis and treatment:

3. How intuitive is the user interface for clinical documentation and treatment plans?

Ideally, the EHR should offer a range of clinical documentation features including note templates for specific modalities and data import and sync features to incorporate information from patient onboarding, ongoing assessments, and treatment plans into your clinical notes. The features need to be intuitive and “just work” so that you can focus on your patients without constantly tinkering with your EHR.

4. Does the EHR offer templates or tools specifically designed for behavioral health assessments and treatment documentation?

This is a key item that is difficult to find because few EHRs are built specifically for behavioral health. A potential litmus tests is that a good EHR should allow you to send out assessments through their patient portal. It’s even better if the results are automatically scored and populate directly into the patient chart.

Another is that each patient’s treatment plan should be easy to create, update, share with your patient, and integrate into their patient chart.


Boost Productivity With Prebuilt and Custom Mental Health Progress Note Templates

Read More

Grow Your Practice

Leverage Your EHR To Grow Your Practice

Learn More

Questions for Front-Office Staff When Selecting an EHR

Key questions for front-office staff include onboarding, scheduling, and payments:

5. Can the EHR streamline patient intake processes and appointment scheduling?

Ideally, your EHR should offer a way to manage prospective patients, intake paperwork, and provide an excellent experience through your patient portal. Additionally, you’ll want an EHR with a robust but easy-to-use scheduler that gives you access to the entire workflow.

6. How does the EHR handle insurance and billing?

This includes basic questions, such as: Does it include the billing codes and modifiers you need? Can you track claims through your billing dashboard? You’ll also want to ask advanced billing questions, such as: Does it include integration with clearinghouses, superbills, electronic remittance advice (ERAs), and the ability to collect co-pays, co-insurance, and self-pays via card? The right EHR should make billing easier and increase your claims success rate.

Questions for Back-Office Staff When Selecting an EHR

Note that some of these questions, which pertain to security and day-to-day back-office interactions, are also relevant to administrators:

7. What data security measures does the EHR offer to protect patient information?

Your EHR vendor should make security a top priority. Among other items, your communications with patients must be HIPAA-compliant, which is one reason why a secure patient portal is key. Role-based access controls (RBACs) are another critical feature. RBACs should be easy for administrators to understand and adjust, and the vendor should emphasize the need for training, monitoring, and periodic review of these controls and other security measures.

8. How does the EHR facilitate communication and coordination between different departments within the practice, and beyond?

This includes previously mentioned items such as intake and clinical documentation, scheduling, and billing. It also includes items like tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), ePrescribing, and eLabs. Overall, the ideal EHR should provide a seamlessly integrated package that is specialized for behavioral health.


Access the EHR Migration Template


Starting Your New Practice

Private Practice Business Plan Template

Learn the benefits of developing a private practice business plan and download a free template.

Considerations for an EHR Demo

If you have made it this far in the EHR vendor selection process, you are ready to ask for a demonstration. The vendor may offer a pre-recorded demo, which may prompt you to ask additional or more-specific questions before your live demo. As you proceed, keep these questions in mind:

9. What key features should you pay attention to during the EHR demo?

At this point, you have probably identified several “must-have” features, and you may have more specific questions about the flexibility and implementation of these features. These questions may be guided by problems you have with your existing EHR or workflows.

10. How can you ensure that the EHR vendor demonstrates the functionalities relevant to your practice’s needs?

Choosing an EHR is a big step. Your vendor should provide plenty of support to address your needs, which will likely include migrating from an existing EHR. Ask for demonstrations of specific features and for a representative familiar with any specific needs to attend the demo. Also, ask about access to your future EHR environment for testing and training, as well as the availability of ongoing support (see Question 2).


We hope this guide has inspired you to ask the right questions when selecting an EHR for your behavioral health practice. B sure to thoroughly evaluate various EHR options to make an informed decision.