Kristy Boldt

Top 5 Things to Look for in a Behavioral Health Hospital EHR Solution

May 6, 2021

Behavioral Health, EHR, Healthcare Industry, Healthcare IT 5 Minute Read

One silver lining of the pandemic has been the increased focus on the importance of treating mental illness. Before Covid, mental health was often overlooked, largely underfunded, and stigmatized. It simply wasn’t given the same prominence as physical health. Today, there is a wider realization that mental health impacts everyone, and that providers need to take a more holistic approach to treating both mental and physical illnesses.

While the pandemic may have been the driving force for this change, the fact of the matter is that the mental health of our nation is suffering dramatically. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, more than half of all providers have seen an increase in demand for services since the pandemic hit.

The Catch-22 is that even though we need them now more than ever, behavioral health providers are struggling financially just to stay open, let alone keep up with the growing demand. Additionally, they typically have to rely on outdated processes and disjointed, siloed systems.

The question: How can we fix this broken system and move towards collaborative, connected, and holistic care?

A key factor is implementing the necessary tools and technologies to effectively manage change. An electronic health record (EHR) is the cornerstone of quality care delivered across the continuum. While EHR adoption is nearly universal in acute care hospitals, the same can’t be said for behavioral health hospitals. A recent New England Journal of Medicine report showed that only 15 percent of behavioral health hospitals have implemented an EHR. Because they weren’t eligible to receive Meaningful Use incentive payments like other hospitals, behavioral health hospitals lag behind in EHR adoption.

With additional government initiatives and funding dollars now available to behavioral health facilities, the expectation is that this number will start to rise. Many behavioral health providers are now or will soon be searching for an EHR or HIT platform that best fits their needs.

Based on discussions with many of our behavioral health hospital clients that have already gone through the evaluation process, here are the top factors that drive a purchasing decision when selecting an EHR platform.

Top 5 Things to Look for in a Psychiatric Hospital / Behavioral Health Hospital EHR

  1. Specific behavioral health features and functionality. Many acute care EHR solutions lack the functionality necessary to address the unique needs of inpatient psychiatric settings. For example, CMS requires clinical staff at inpatient psychiatric facilities to provide an “individualized treatment plan” for all patients that includes strengths and weaknesses, short-and long-term goals, interventions, plus updated “progress notes” from the care team. This necessitates having an EHR with a built-in Multidisciplinary Treatment Plan (MDTP) application that easily enables clinicians from various disciplines (psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, and care managers) to collaboratively create, update and sign individual, targeted patient treatment plans. The application should further enable this networked group of caregivers to track and record problems, goals, and interventions for use in treatment planning documentation.

Additional features and functionality to look for include standard behavioral health templates, group therapy documentation, Hospital-Based Inpatient Psychiatric Services (HBIPS) reporting, and DSM 5 diagnoses recorded in the chart. 

  1. Comprehensive functionality to address comorbidities. While the correct EHR solution obviously needs specific built-in behavioral health functionality, it must also have functional clinical crossover to treat the entire patient and all ailments, including physical ones. Given that mental illness is often a comorbid condition with other types of chronic illnesses, the EHR must accommodate both mental and physical health needs and workflows, as well as support collaborative team care across both of these disciplines.

  2. A Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) component. Continuously changing policies and regulations required for behavioral health billing and reimbursements make RCM a huge challenge. Every behavioral health and psychiatric hospital requires a patient accounting and RCM solution that not only addresses the unique billing requirements of behavioral health, but also works in tandem with an EHR solution to streamline documentation, optimize workflow, and accelerate and enhance revenue. 

  3. Interoperability. Though much progress has been made, behavioral health organizations still lag behind when it comes to interoperability. The EHR you choose needs to help you collaborate and exchange information with those who need it, including third-party systems such as pharmacy, labs, and even telehealth.

  4. Affordability. This one is probably a no-brainer but given the extremely tight budgets of behavioral health organizations, you can’t afford to overspend on an EHR. Multiple EHR solutions are now available for behavioral health hospitals – you just have to find the one that fulfills both your functional and budgetary requirements.

Want to dig deeper and hear first-hand from a CEO/founder of a behavioral health hospital on what drove his decision in selecting an HIT platform? Listen to the podcast here.


About Medsphere

Medsphere is dedicated to helping behavioral health hospitals succeed through proven and affordable HIT solutions. Our CareVue EHR/RCM Cloud offering is a comprehensive clinical and financial platform that helps behavioral health hospitals move to the electronic era for integrated and improved patient care. Unlike other behavioral health EHRs, CareVue is designed to meet the unique needs of an inpatient psychiatric hospital while also addressing the full scope of a patient’s medical and behavioral health needs. Schedule a free demo today!

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