The old adage is true: sometimes, you really don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.
This was Lisa Huber’s experience in 2020 when her behavioral health practice left Valant for a non-specialized EMR software. Huber is a practicing psychiatrist and founding partner at the Atlanta-based practice Peachtree Comprehensive Health, a 28-provider practice which offers psychiatric and therapeutic care. The practice had been with Valant since 2011, but decided to try out a different tech stack.
Valant was a good fit for Peachtree in many ways. Valant’s behavioral health EHR and practice management software took the time and difficulty out of complex tasks like scheduling and documentation, and the therapists especially appreciated Valant’s pre-built library of clinical note templates, which were formatted to meet the needs of behavioral health therapists and psychiatrists.
Though they loved many of Valant’s features, Peachtree struggled with Valant’s Private Practice Suite software, the current platform at the time that leveraged Windows-based technology and was not easily compatible with their Linux operating system. This meant clinicians and staff had to use special servers just to access Valant. Seeking to solve this complication, Peachtree left Valant in October 2020 to transition to a non-Behavioral-Health-specific EHR that was more compatible with Linux. Shortly after, in 2021, Valant released its current software platform, Valant IO, which is web-based and compatible with modern operating systems.
Peachtree was sad to leave many of Valant’s convenient features, but the new EMR vendor had promised many amazing features of its own. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Peachtree’s clinicians and staff to realize that the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the fence after all.
It quickly became clear that the EMR they had adopted was designed for non-behavioral health specialties and for practitioners who bill insurance. The problem? Peachtree is a private pay facility.
Huber and others were frustrated when they realized that their new EMR could not produce the statements their patients needed to submit to insurance for reimbursement. Staff were forced to create those statements from scratch. Huber had been promised that some of the new EMR’s billing automation features would allow them to save on paid staff hours, but these savings were offset when Peachtree was forced to hire a new staff member just to create the statements.
In addition, therapists and psychiatrists were disappointed with the clinical documentation features of the EMR. The clinical notes feature was not developed with behavioral health requirements in mind, and therefore made documentation more cumbersome and time-consuming than it had been with Valant. In addition, each clinical note generated was automatically shareable to others unless the practitioner remembered to turn the feature off. Huber felt that this was a privacy breach waiting to happen.
It seemed that they were hitting limitations in flexibility and function at every turn. The workarounds they were forced to develop were not scalable for a practice their size and would result in massive inefficiencies and provider dissatisfaction over time. It didn’t take long for Huber to realize that they had made a mistake in switching software.
“I knew we had to go back [to Valant] within the first three months of using the new one,” Huber says.
The team toughed it out for another six months. But before a year had elapsed, everyone admitted it was time to return to Valant.
In the nine months since Peachtree had left Valant, the software had become web-based, eliminating what had been Peachtree’s biggest frustration in 2020. Now that accessing the software was a simple matter, clinicians and staff found that Valant smoothed the path for their work in a way that the EMR never could.
Additionally, after transitioning all users to the new Valant IO solution in 2021, Valant’s development team got to work releasing many new purpose-built behavioral health features, creating even more efficiency and value for the team at Peachtree. Now, the EHR they already loved included a host of new integrated features, including:
- MYIO, an app-based patient portal with a user-friendly patient interface that allows one easy place for all interactions with the practice, including telehealth visits, payments, and scheduling.
- New patient communication tools, including a variety of automated reminders to reduce no-shows and keep credit card information updated, send larger broadcast messages to groups of patients, and facilitate secure messaging with the ability to attach documents, making patient communication easier than ever before.
- Prospective Patient Management, which gave them the ability to collect patient inquiries on their website and flow them directly into the EHR, as well as help match patients and providers through data-driven algorithms. Peachtree utilizes a centralized scheduling system, and their scheduling staff needs a master list of prospective patients to reference for intake scheduling. Valant allows them to maintain a detailed prospective patient database.
- Integrated HIPAA-compliant telehealth, which accommodates up to 30 participants at a time, offers whiteboarding and other collaborative features, and allows practices like Peachtree to collect payment prior to the telehealth visit with an automated paywall feature.
- Group therapy capabilities with a streamlined workflow for scheduling and documenting group therapy sessions.
In addition to the new capabilities their EHR now has, their brief stint with a non-behavioral-health-specific software threw into sharp relief all the other ways that Valant makes their work easier:
- Scheduling. “Scheduling on Valant has always been very simple,” Huber says. They never have problems with double-booking or double-charging.
- Payments. Huber loves that patients can put credit cards on file and make payments themselves through the MYIO patient portal, without needing assistance from staff.
- Data security. Valant’s clinical notes do not automatically allow sharing with other providers, making data safer.
- Online intake. New patient info can be filled out and signed online with Valant, making the process more convenient.
- Customizable forms. Peachtree’s clinicians were delighted to once again have customizable forms and notes built specifically for behavioral health, improving the efficiency. “From a clinical perspective, the notes that we take are very much geared toward psychiatric practice, which is helpful,” Huber says.
- Automated assessment workflows. Patients are assigned outcome measures prior to their appointments which are completed through the MYIO patient portal, assessments are automatically scored and graphed, and narratives are automatically generated and populated into the patient’s clinical note. This saves the practitioners valuable time and gives them the data they need to monitor and adjust treatment plans over time.
- Billing and statements. Submitting charges is far easier with fewer clicks and less administrative time now that they’ve returned to Valant. Best of all, the billing statements patients need can be generated and dropped directly into the patient portal.
Advice to Potential Valant Customers
Huber is pleased to be back with Valant again, and she has a message for other practices who might be considering Valant:
“Valant’s very intuitive. The learning curve is pretty low,” Huber says. “I think it rivals anything else. Definitely, for any fee-for-service practice, it just makes everything easier.”
She’s relieved that Peachtree once again has a functional EHR—and they have no plans to leave again any time soon! “It was really nice coming back. It was like coming home,” Huber says.