Ultimate Guide to EHR Implementation

EHR Implementation

“How’s work going?”
“Stressful. We’re in the middle of an implementation.”

This conversation happens too often. EHR implementations are typically time-consuming with inflexible project plans that demand adherence to foreign workflows. Not-too-surprisingly, EHR sales teams tend to keep this onboarding experience close to the chest and are highly hesitant to share details of the implementation experience.

It’s time to open the implementation curtain and empower your organization. We compiled questions to ask EHR vendors to clarify whether they will be a good partner in your implementation or just another headache, tips for building your internal onboarding project team, and tools to practice open communication in order to limit surprises at go-live.

Ask the right questions

The amount of support provided to practices implementing a new EHR software can vary greatly, depending on the technology vendor.

For basic scheduling or note-taking software, implementation support is typically non-existent. Practices tend to purchase the software online without ever speaking with a sales representative, and are immediately given a login, leaving them to figure out on their own how to setup and use the software in their practice.

For more robust EHR and practice management software, implementation support can vary from a generic implementation checklist with self-service support options to a more custom, hands-on approach with a dedicated implementation manager who is responsible for ensuring a successful implementation.

When you are evaluating EHR solutions, it’s important to ask the right questions about what to expect during the EHR implementation. You should strive to understand what level of support you would receive from each vendor, should you select their software.

Can I see a sample EHR implementation plan for a behavioral health practice similar to mine?

By seeing a sample implementation plan, you’ll get a feel for how in-depth the EHR onboarding process is. Will the organization truly help you think through every aspect of the implementation or will you be left to figure it out on your own? Is the plan organized with clear deliverables for both the practice and the software vendor? What are the timeline assumptions for how long certain tasks will take or when the implementation will begin?

How much live consultation will I receive during onboarding?

You will hear a wide variety of answers to this question. Some software vendors will allocate a set number of hours with a live consultant. Others will give you unlimited access to online documentation, but live consultations are billed at a separate rate on top of your software fees.

The best onboarding support is personalized and should be focused on achieving your practice’s specific implementation goals, rather than an arbitrary time commitment. You should seek to have as much access to a live onboarding resource as it takes for your team to achieve the agreed-upon goals, with sufficient online documentation to guide you and your team beyond the initial implementation.

What types of on-demand documentation exist to help our team transition to the new software?

When evaluating the type of onboarding support for any given EHR vendor, it’s important to consider what type of support documentation is available for you or the broader team to reference as you build your maturity within the platform. Is the documentation easily accessible and organized or will you spend your days with fruitless Google searches going down rabbit holes that don’t actually answer the question at hand. Is there a mix of written and video support content? Are articles written in a way that are helpful and easy to understand?

Best-in-class vendors will provide a variety of resource types, including videos, technical articles, and downloadable guides. Ideally, all of this information is organized on an easy-to-navigate knowledge base website.

What steps do you take to get to know my practice and our workflow requirements?

We work with thousands of behavioral health practices every year and one thing we’ve learned is that no two practices are the same. Whether thinking about practice goals or specific workflows, each practice is unique, and it’s important for your EHR vendor to recognize that and teach you how to use your new software in the way that will be most useful for your practice.

During evaluation, ask them to describe their onboarding experience. What types of questions will they be asking you to get to know your business? Is their onboarding process the same for all types of practices and specialties or is the implementation plan specific to the nuances of behavioral health?  If they show you a cookie-cutter implementation plan that is used for all customers, that should be a red flag.  Instead, look for indications that they will spend time understanding your goals before creating a custom onboarding plan for your practice.

How do you measure success in the implementation process?

Software implementation can be measured in a variety of ways and the KPIs these teams are focused on can provide some great insights into what you might expect from the onboarding experience.

For example, if the EHR vendor is measured solely on their ability to “complete” an implementation in the least amount of time possible, you might find that you feel rushed through the process or don’t receive the explanation or resources needed to fully understand how the new software should operate. It’s also important to understand what “complete” means to them, and who decides when that milestone has been reached.

Mental health software vendors with the most customer centric approach will typically look at customer readiness as their primary metric. By the end of the onboarding experience, do you, as the customer, feel enabled to meet your practice goals? Your confidence with the tool will drive more productive usage and a more successful partnership long term.

How long should a behavioral health EHR implementation take?

No software implementation is the same, but on average, you should expect your onboarding to take between 30-60 days. There are many variables that factor into the timeline. Smaller practices with simple workflows and limited data to import can expect to be up and running more quickly than large practices with complex workflows and data migration requirements.

However, regardless of the project complexity, the biggest factor for accelerating an implementation is motivation. Do you have an internal champion that will take charge of the onboarding in a way that’s motivating and encouraging for other employees? Is the project team excited by the power of a new EHR and able to prioritize project deliverables against daily responsibilities?

Ultimately, you should have the ability to work with your vendor to come up with a mutually acceptable timeline that is realistic for both parties.

Who, within the practice, should lead the EHR implementation?

Behavioral health practices come in all shapes and sizes and it’s not uncommon for employees to wear multiple hats within the organization.

EHR implementations with the highest level of success are usually led by somebody with overarching knowledge of the current workflows that the practice is using. Whether it’s an office manager, clinical director, or front-desk admin, the most important factor is that they know how the organization works and have the authority to make decisions that will benefit the practice.

In larger organizations, it’s common to have a larger implementation team that includes a project champion joined by department leads that understand the nuances of the practice’s administrative, clinical, and billing workflows.

As with any large-scale project, it’s helpful if the project champion is organized, engaged, and motivated to drive the project to completion.

What steps can your practice take to ensure a successful EHR implementation?

Choose wisely

When purchasing mental health software, the team who is evaluating the EHR should be aligned on the necessary requirements for their practice and should be clear about these requirements during the sales process. Not every EHR and practice management software is created equal, so being able to communicate your expectations is critical to ensure a good fit prior to purchase.

It is disappointing and time-consuming for a practice to complete their onboarding only to realize the software does not live up to the promises made during the selling process. Make sure to request a demonstration of the software to confirm it meets your requirements before you sign.

Be engaged

The practices that are best equipped to hit the ground running with their new software are those that take accountability and demonstrate a high level of engagement during the onboarding process. They end up happy with their purchase and get the most out of their software.

Conversely, the practices that struggle are those that are too busy or don’t prioritize the time put into the project. They expect to jump right into their live account and don’t attend the training or onboarding meetings that will set them up for success.

Being engaged means showing up to your onboarding meetings prepared with a list of questions and practicing in the sandbox environment. If you don’t understand something, it’s stopping and getting clarification from your onboarding manager. It means speaking up if your needs are not being met.

Define implementation success

As discussed above, implementation success can be measured in a variety of ways. It’s important for you to have a clear picture of what success looks like for your practice, which will help the onboarding team create the perfect plan to get you there.

Think about why you’re shopping for an EHR software. Are you trying to gain efficiencies by consolidating disparate software programs into an integrated platform? Are you hoping to save time for your providers and/or administrative staff or make their work less cumbersome? Are you wanting to safeguard your practice in the event of an audit or subpoena? Are you looking to improve the level of care you can provide to patients?

Whatever the reason, it’s important to approach the implementation with this in mind and ensure the project plan is set up in a way that will enable you to achieve your practice goals.  

What type of onboarding experience does Valant provide for its customers?

Valant takes onboarding very seriously. After all, we understand it sets the foundation that can leave a customer feeling supported and excited about their software purchase or leave them feeling frustrated and remorseful.

Here’s what makes Valant onboarding experience unique:

Obsessed with your success

Every implementation starts with our team spending time to understand your business and workflows. We take a customized, goal-oriented approach and ensure we tailor your onboarding project plan to those goals. Our support team does not operate with a cost center mentality; rather, we have a genuine care for our customers and we invest in our relationship with you. Our team does not celebrate success until you are confident that your practice is set up for success.

Custom, white-glove implementation service

Every new customer is assigned an implementation manager who serves as their personal point of contact and project manager throughout the onboarding process. The implementation manager will guide you through the process step by step, develop a custom and detailed project plan that will enable your practice to get the most out of the software, and will provide strategies and guidance on how to start meeting your practice goals as quickly as possible.

Exclusively behavioral health

Valant is one of the only EHR software platforms made specifically for mental health private practices. That means you won’t find clutter geared towards physical medicine; instead 100% of our focus has gone into tailoring the experience for practices like yours. All of Valant’s implementation managers are experts in behavioral health so they understand the unique workflows and nuances of the industry and can dig into the details of your business in an intelligent and informed way. They will spend time analyzing your current workflows and can offer guidance – if warranted – on alternative workflows based on best practice and how other behavioral health practices have found success.

Robust resources for both immediate and continued success

In addition to live training, a personal implementation manager, and an in-depth analysis of your practice’s workflows, Valant offers a complete set of training tools to ensure you can confidently get the most from the software, including the following:

    • Interactive implementation guide: Ensures a focused and efficient onboarding schedule; plus gives you quick-link access to the most critical KB resources tailored for your practice
    • Sandbox account: A safe place to experiment and get familiar with the software before you roll it out to your entire practice
    • On-demand e-learning modules: Perfect for scaled training across large teams
    • Robust knowledge base (KB): Searchable website with an impressive number of articles, on-demand videos, and webinars covering a vast array of topics

See Valant in action

Curious about how Valant’s EHR and practice management software could benefit your practice? We would love to show you a demo and answer any questions you may have.


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