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5 EHR Implementation Considerations for Behavioral Health Providers

5 Behavioral Health EHR Implementation Considerations

Despite the excitement for electronic health record (EHR) installations and increasing expectations that physicians and other providers use them, many projects fall short of expectations. Common challenges can derail project success, such as end users not getting adequate training – which can lead to unintentional user error – and workflows not being set up correctly, likely producing communication challenges. Money can also be wasted when implementation isn’t done right the first time. 

Identify technology competencies that will best serve your behavioral health organization with our guide, The Ultimate Guide to Behavioral Health EHR Selection.

Behavioral health practices can be particularly vulnerable to these project failures, especially if the use of the technology is new. Many products also aren’t very well-suited to these settings, lacking technology training and workflows tailored to the specialty. Although EHR adoption continues to climb across healthcare, behavioral health EHR adoption unsurprisingly lags behind its counterparts

Several things need to be kept in mind when planning and implementing an EHR system in the behavioral health setting to not waste time or introduce costs. This article outlines five key areas to consider to best position your organization for behavioral health EHR implementation success. 

The Importance of Starting with a Strong Strategy

Developing a successful EHR strategy cannot be stressed enough. When done well and with the right technology solution, EHR implementation can result in improvements throughout the organization. A successful implementation can help to reduce administrative work, increase productivity, improve quality, and boost revenue. With a more efficient system and more workplace automation, there’s potential to see growth in client and end-user satisfaction. 

A behavioral health EHR expands many of the organization’s capabilities to use data more effectively. Developing care coordination systems across provider settings becomes simpler. Practices can access better clinical and financial performance tracking as well as new modeling and analytics capabilities. In this way, the right EHR can make it easier for providers to transition to value-based care models and develop new levels of clinical and financial insights.

So where do things go wrong, and what do you need to account for in your EHR implementation strategy so your providers and organization reap these benefits? 

5 Factors That Influence Implementation of a Behavioral Health EHR

Failed EHR installations or consistent downtimes are often due to incompatibility or overly complex, poorly adopted systems. A few of the main reasons that an EHR implementation doesn't go as planned are: 

  • Failure to scale easily
  • Lack of interoperability
  • Design (UI) flaws in the product
  • Poor end-user experiences (UX)
  • Insufficient or ineffective training

One or more of these factors can lead to prolonged downtime, communication failures, errors, or poor user adoption. Here’s how the best behavioral health EHRs solve for them:

1. Scalability

A key factor affecting speed and success of implementations is scalability. Solutions that easily facilitate configuration based on role, function, or practice type versus individual setups are easier to implement across many users. 

The best technology will also feature a customizable modular design. Working with templated workflows and face sheets and then adjusting by user preference or workflow is the most efficient way to introduce technology. Also, a common foundation eases training burden and makes it simpler to implement changes across the system. Modules that introduce best practices into processes can also support improved clinical and financial performance. In addition, the behavioral health EHR needs to be adaptable to the practice’s needs, so it can grow and continue to be usable as number and type of clinical programs and users increase over time. 

 2. Data Exchange through an Open API

An open API (application programming interface) is important to ensure that the practice can pass data between systems internally or externally. Such capabilities can be helpful if the practice wants to use data from other systems to populate fields or sync data onto the platform. Data exchange is an essential component of any efficient EHR system.

With one of the main concerns of EHR usage being patient record safety and secure data collection and storage, an open API can provide a secure way to communicate patient care. APIs in general are revolutionary for providers and can improve productivity and overall efficiency. 

3. User Experience

Usability of the product, data migration, and the ability for staff to easily learn workflows are all factors that affect the system's use. The speed of a system also depends on the comfort level of the end user. If a clinician doesn't have usable or easy-to-navigate charting processes and documentation options, it could make it difficult to use the system. If they experience hesitation due to low tech literacy or discomfort with advanced tools like AI, you may need to institute a change management model that outlines the “why” and “how” behind the transition.

According to a KLAS survey, clinicians who are very dissatisfied with their organization’s EHR are almost three times more likely to leave compared to clinicians who are very satisfied. Researchers noted the importance of documentation efficiency and individual workflow personalization to improve satisfaction levels. 

A few specific functions that positively affect user experience and can help practices get implementation right at the outset are:

  • Customizable templates designed for behavioral health
  • Pre-built template options
  • Adaptable operations
  • Customizable workflow processes
  • Just-in-time access to information, such as screening and assessment tool

The configuration of an EHR should be designed to promote better care coordination systems and to reduce the workload of clinical and administrative staff. 

As an example of designing technology for an ideal user experience, the behavioral health EHR should have a library of existing workflows while enabling the user to modify or create their own and should support the most efficient processes. For instance, the system would provide identification of forms to be completed, provider assignments, task order requirements, and time estimates appropriate to the behavioral health setting. Aligning the technology with how users work aids comfort with the system and improves process efficiency.

4. EHR Training

Training approach can play a vital role in EHR implementation success. Traditionally, the biggest reasons for early setbacks or unrealized benefits are shortfalls in user adoption.

Insufficient or ineffective training will often result in users not understanding or making use of the technology’s capabilities. Poor training can lead to feelings that an EHR is hard to operate and navigate, is missing automation features, is overly complex, or has a poor design. The quality of the training approach will significantly affect user adoption and ultimately optimization. 

The best way to implement effective EHR training is to: 

  • Create EHR training plans based on the needs and workflows of the practice’s end users
  • Break down training and cater to the user’s current technology literacy skills
  • Schedule ongoing training
  • Turn quick learners into super users (this is often essential, as having designated department staff who can answer questions after the implementation and support phases will be helpful)

Also important is making time for training. Multi-tasking while learning is not an effective strategy. Instead, organizational leaders should consider scheduling learning sessions by temporarily restructuring everyday workflows. Trainees should have uninterrupted learning opportunities to best accommodate their learning styles. The goal is to help users not only capture and store new knowledge and skills, but also achieve long-term adoption. 

5. EHR Support

Ongoing training and technical systems support is another factor in behavioral health EHR implementation success, and this is where many installs fall short. An organization should have a plan for maintaining success after go-live. Even though an end user may receive proper training with the functions they will be using given their staff role, the individual is also likely to have questions or need additional guidance after the system goes live. They may also encounter situations where learning how to optimize the system or make use of additional workflows will lead to greater benefit.

Ongoing communication with an EHR support representative can help the team move beyond basic comfort with the system to mastery, ensuring optimization potential is realized.

There should also be on-demand, context-sensitive “help” documentation built into the system. This makes it easy for any user to find information specific to where they are in the platform.

While live support after the EHR implementation is essential to continued success, also important is maintaining the system by taking steps such as:

  • Performing general risk assessments regularly
  • Having an administrator review audit logs
  • Staying on top of system updates 

In addition, it should be easy to reach your EHR vendor’s support teams and expect timely responses to your queries. The vendor should also support a continued relationship to make it easier for technology use to adapt and align over time with organizational changes, further data complexities, and shifting regulatory standards.

A Behavioral Health EHR to Better Run Your Facility

Learn how Core Solutions’ Cx360 behavioral health EHR supports fast, successful implementations with easy scaling capabilities, the right training, and strong support. Schedule a demo today.

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