Three questions behavioral health practices must ask.
EHR systems have become a modern staple for many behavioral health organizations. Both large and small practices have come to see value in the automation and convenience an EHR provides, but circumstances change over time and new needs develop.
At a certain point the effort to maintain an outdated system exceeds the challenge of adopting a new one. Though it is ultimately up to the practices themselves when the best time to upgrade is, those that are interested in identifying whether or not they have outgrown their EHRs need ask themselves the following three questions:
What is happening in your practice?
Has the practice experienced significant growth since its inception? EHRs can become a bottleneck rather than an enabler in a situation where dramatic growth in provider headcount or caseload has occurred.
Operational needs and regulatory requirements change over time, demanding additional tasks throughout clinical and administrative workflows and producing functional gaps in the EHR system. Any existing gaps must be bridged by human effort. As your practice continues to outgrow its EHR, you must devote more and more human effort to address the areas where the aging system falls short. Over time, this accounts for time and resources that could be used in other ways.
What is happening with the technology?
The software itself plays a vital role in the successful operation of your practice. Because software systems are designed to handle a specific workload, any undue stress will result in performance loss. It’s not uncommon for a practice to experience slowness or even system crashes as its caseload increases over time. It is a sure sign that your practice has outgrown its EHR, and it is worth considering how much production loss the business is willing to put up with.
What is happening in the industry?
The behavioral healthcare industry continually changes. In just the past few years major changes in health care such as ICD-10, various state EHR mandates, and CPT updates have rolled out, changing the dynamics of care.
A good indication of whether or not your practice has outgrown its EHR is how well you can adapt to changes. In the instance of ICD-10, many modern solutions feature some form of crosswalking that made the transition easy, but without it, the burden fell on staff to translate codes. Industry changes shouldn’t always equate to extra work for providers, clinicians, and administrators, but more often than not they do when the EHR is underperforming.
Valant published an ICD-10 cheat sheet for behavioral health, which can be found here.
Taking on a new EHR system is no small undertaking, so it is worth considering how growth has impacted your practice, how your current technology performs, and how readily it can respond to industry changes. Practices that have a better understanding of where they stand in relation to these things will have an easier time determining if it’s time to upgrade.
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