Behavioral Health EMR Software Buyers Guide
Last updated: December 05, 2023
Selecting Behavioral Health EMR Software for outpatient, in-patient & partial in-patient medical facilities
Like most specialty practices, behavioral health EMRs depend on additional features, usually unavailable in general EMRs, to perform day to day tasks. For example, such practices need:
- Enhanced security features due to the sensitivity of patient information
- Improved care coordination to deal with the underlying physical symptoms associated with mental illnesses
- Additional compliance requirements
- Clinical management for Inpatient, outpatient, or partial inpatient structures
It means it is often hard to find an electronic medical record system specifically designed for mental health practice. It is due to this reason that most mental health practitioners are slow adopters of such technology. Till 2015, only 61% of behavioral health practitioners had deployed an EMR system. Even now, though the numbers have improved, most practices prefer a standalone eprescribing module over an EMR.
In this guide, we will discuss:
- Benefits of behavioral health EMRs
- What type of buyer are you?
- Market trends to understand.
- Why is an EMR better than a standalone eprescribing module?
- Must-have Features in mental health EHR systems
- How much does a BH EMR cost?
- Top behavioral health systems in the market
Benefits of behavioral health EMRs
- Information sharing between providers is easier which is a necessary part of mental health workflow.
- Mental health practices can qualify for incentives under MIPS and other government programs by deploying a certified EMR in their practice
- Patient record keeping is more streamlined electronically vs. paper records. Multiple data entry methods such as text boxes, speech recognition shorten documenting time.
- Decision support systems inbuilt within EMRs help providers make more informed choices related to medication, and treatment plans.
What Type of Buyer Are You?
There could be many reasons why a behavioral health medical practice is seeking EMR software. Here are the most common ones:
- Transitioning from paper charts to EHRs - It's not new for us to hear from callers who are overburdened with paperwork and want to enjoy the benefits of electronic records. This transition enables practitioners to keep more detailed records, improve office efficiency, and reduce errors.
- Opening a new practice – Medical professionals who haven't opened their healthcare facility yet, often want to have their systems in place before beginning with it. Therapists choose standalone systems depending upon their budgets and need to grow.
- Integrating applications into one system - Practices that started with independent software find that, over time, they can't manage those disparate systems and need a single, integrated software suite of solutions. These larger integrated systems combine a variety of behavioral health software such as EHR, billing, practice management, and scheduling, to make them all quicker to access.
- Replacing outdated systems - Features and constant updates are being added to behavioral health software systems, and many times we find that most of our callers have outgrown their existing systems and are in search of advanced options.
Market Trends to Understand
Many trends are happening in electronic medical records for psychiatry and behavioral health software. Here are a few you should consider when selecting a product and vendor:
- In 2012, guidelines for Stage 2 of HITECH were announced. They set the deadline for physicians to become meaningful users three years later, and those who fail to qualify will get decreased Medicare and Medicaid payments. While evaluating mental health software, it is crucial to be sure whether it's certified or not.
- ONC-ATCB certification – This is, for sure, the most significant trend in mental health systems and psychiatric software. The fundamental aspect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2009, is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. It provides a "carrots and sticks" plan for healthcare offices to implement mental and behavioral health EHR systems. Qualified practices can earn up to $44,000 in reimbursements in the form of increased Medicaid and Medicare incentives. Behavioral health professionals have to show "meaningful use" of ONC-ATCB-certified mental health EHR software to qualify.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) - As with any other industry, cloud computing is also emerging quickly in healthcare. The main reasons for mental health software adoption include lower upfront costs, reduced IT burden, and remote access. Data security and encryption, developments in HIPAA compliance, data backup, and server reliability also make web-based mental health EHR systems a suitable alternative for behavioral health practices.
- Mobile device support – Medical professionals and doctors prefer to work from their mobile devices and accessing data on the go via tablets, smartphones, etc. Psychiatry EMR and Psychology practice software vendors are offering more support for wireless devices. Some vendors are even offering native apps for several operating systems, including Android, Apple, Windows, etc. When looking for a behavioral health EHR software, consider your requirements in terms of mobile support.
- Telemedicine software - Telehealth is a valuable feature that enables patients and practitioners to conduct sessions and communicate remotely. Some integrated behavioral health software systems provide tools that facilitate telemedicine, such as secure video conferencing. So, know if you'd like to add telemedicine in your list of considerations.
Why are behavioral health EMRs better than standalone eprescribing modules?
Standalone e-prescribing software allows you to access a patient's prescription benefit coverage, prescription history, along with providing a bi-directional interface for placing prescription orders with a patient's preferred pharmacy.
These systems are usually less costly and easy to implement as compared to an EHR, which is why they are so popular.
While e-prescribing is one of the functions inbuilt within an EMR, an EMR does much more by automating most processes in your medical practice. It also helps you analyze information in a patient's medical history to make more informed decisions even while prescribing medication to the patient. For example, past allergies, drug-to-drug interactions, and the probability of drug dependence, especially in the case of opioids, are all crucial information that can be highlighted by an EMR.
You can also apply for government incentives and avoid penalties by using an EMR over a standalone eprescribing software.
However, these benefits will only hold if you opt for a specialty-specific solution rather than a general EMR. Here is a list of features that you will need to run your mental health practice.
What features should a behavioral health EMR software have?
Once you have committed to the idea of deploying a mental health EMR over a generic system, here are the features and capabilities to look out for.
|Medical Billing Software||Makes collecting payments and coding much more straightforward with tools such as coding assistance, patient statement generators, eligibility inquiry, scrubbing, and reporting. Behavioral health billing solutions often specialize in ICD-10 coding and billing.|
|EMR/EHR||The primary function of mental health software is to create, access, and securely store patient records.|
|Patient Scheduling||Automates the tasks related to scheduling, such as sending out email/text messages/phone reminders of upcoming events, appointments, and follow-up surveys or inquiries.|
|ePrescribing||Prescribe digital medical prescriptions and sends them to approved pharmacies.|
|Patient Portal||Creates a secure interface to help patients view lab results, submit payments and paperwork, and communicate with therapists via secure messages.|
Typical EHR Features
Interaction is Key
Patients feel more comfortable when they receive treatment in less clinical settings. In your niche, you need patients to relax, feel comfortable, and engage. How else will they share about their private lives?
Something as simple as enhanced communication can help create this patient-friendly environment. Therefore your behavioral health EHR software should support SMS sending, email to patients, and sharing of information. When patient records' details can easily be utilized for these actions, engaging with clients will happen more often, because it's effortless for you and your staff.
Medication isn't part of all behavioral health professionals' tasks, which emphasizes the importance of finding a product that fits with your specific niche.
If prescriptions do fall under your list of activities, you can look forward to a streamlined, safer, and less time-consuming process. Instead of physically writing them, your EMR software can facilitate an e-prescribing process. Repeat prescriptions are super easy to manage as the system will alert you when it's necessary.
Some EMRs can also help monitor your prescriptions and alert you to possible side effects based on patients' details or drug interactions that could be harmful. It proves the importance of having all aspects of your practice work together as well as how far software development has come.
When tech helps you monitor your decisions, you can relax more, regain focus, and concentrate on the patient in front of you.
Forms & Documentation specific to Behavioral Practice Needs
This is a primary reason many professionals invest in niche-specific EMRs. When your software provides you with templates and workflows for your area of expertise, it cuts down on the time you usually use for documenting details of a visit.
The EMR should contain notes, sub-notes, forms, and treatment plans relating to the conditions you treat each day. Some of these can include but are not limited to dis-order templates such as:
- Suicide Risk Assessment
- Anxiety & Depression Assessments
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Substance Abuse
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
It will make it quick and easy to record data you gleaned during a consultation.
When you save time here, you have more time for your patients.
Personalized Charting Approach
You know it seems very impersonal when you start taking notes while someone is sharing their life story with you. But notes are imperative to what you do for patients.
With a high-end Behavioral Health EMR this problem is averted:
- Take notes by simply clicking on a screen, fill in appropriate blocks on layouts designed for this niche.
- Add voice notes or dictated files to a patient's file directly after a consultation. It won't take long, so you'll be ready for the next appointment in no time.
- Retrieve previous notes quickly to remind yourself of the current patient's details.
Instead of tech making healthcare more clinical, it can make it extremely personal.
Apart from your EMR integrating with features in your office, you also need to stay connected to other role players. You're probably part of a network that provides the high-quality care your patients need:
- Other experts, you confer with
- Specialists you may refer a patient to
Keep paperwork to a minimum and let your EMR manage these interactions. Lab results must be received and added to patient records easily. When you do a referral or want to share patient records, it's secure and quick to do it via an EMR; But it only works if your program is compatible with others in the field.
Accommodate multiple facility types
A one-size-fits-all EHR cannot work for a behavioral health facility. Mental health experts treat clients in inpatients, outpatients, partial-inpatient, and other blended treatment plans.
The best behavioral health EMR will allow physicians to provide care in all of these care settings.
Confidentiality is of utmost importance in the mental health space. Concerns regarding cybersecurity are one of the leading reasons why most practitioners are hesitant in deploying an EMR system in mental health settings. Apart from opting for a HIPAA compliant solution, a BH EHR must have multiple layers of access based on user credentials. It means that only authorized team members will be able to create patient records or access and modify them.
The Cost of Behavioral Health Software
Behavioral Health EMRs are priced lower as compared to other specialty EMRs. Usually, they range anywhere between $25 to $150. Several factors can impact this price, which includes:
- Deployment model ( Cloudbased vs. server-based)
- Number of providers
- Pricing models ( Monthly subscription vs. encounter-based pricing)
- Implementation and support packages
- Level of customization
You can find detailed pricing for top behavioral health EMRs by downloading our EMR pricing guide for behavioral health practices.
Which Behavioral Health EMR vendors should I consider?
There are a few approaches you could use here.
You can either opt for a general family practice EMR that is offered by almost all vendors in the market or go for a specialized product created by a company that only deals with mental health solutions. In either case, be aware of the following:
Size – Some products are best-suited to large practices, while others cater better to smaller ones. All EMR systems are built by keeping a certain number of users, support, and scalability in mind. It is essential to keep in mind the size of your practice while selecting a vendor.
System Design – A practice chooses a system based on their personal choice and comfort level. Some physicians prefer having software on their computer server as it is more compliant with HIPAA requirements, while others would want to have access to their database anytime, anywhere. You'll need to consider vendors who fulfill these needs.
If you practice behavioral and mental health and nothing else, here are a few good options for you to consider:
- ICANotes EHR: it is a web-based EHR system for psychiatry practices. It caters to a wide range of mental health professionals. This specialty-specific software allows users to take mental health progress reports and notes without typing or worrying about transcription expenses – only by using a range of pre-formatted buttons.
- Valant EHR: Valant is a cloud-based EHR system designed for both mental and behavioral health private practices. It offers mobile device support with smartphones and tablets, and the UX is based on mobile app design for ease of use.
- Carelogic EHR: Carelogic is designed to be used in behavioral and mental health settings, including therapy, substance abuse, psychiatry, and more. Deployments are in practice with 20 clinicians or more.
Customize your EHR to fit your needs
To set up an EHR system, you don't have to waste a lot of time, energy, and money. You can use charting features in minutes, with the opportunity to make your system a tailor-fit. Choose the software that offers enough customization to suit the way you practice.
- Is behavioral health the same as mental health?
When differentiating between mental and behavioral health, it is of utmost importance to know that behavioral health is the umbrella term that includes mental health.
- Are there EHR systems that are designed explicitly for psychiatry or mental health?
Yes, many vendors serve mainly to the mental health community and some that are designed to cater to psychiatry. To review EHRs that are geared toward mental health providers, visit our behavioral health software listing
- What are the top 5 EHR systems for behavioral health practice in 2020?
Our Top picks for mental health Vendors include:
- EHR YOUR WAY