Mental Health EMR
What does “mental health EMR” mean? What are the benefits and challenges to considering a mental health EMR for your practice / agency?
What is Mental Health EMR?
EMR means Electronic Medical Records, essentially a paperless version of your clients’ charts. Also commonly known as EHR, or Electronic Health Records, this term's description can run the gamut of a Word / PDF version of paper notes to a sophisticated Practice Management System that incorporates every aspect of a mental health agency.
While the possibilities under the umbrella of “mental health EMR” are broad, the term is typically used to describe software or an electronic program that keeps client charts safer - and practice data more secure – than traditional paper charts. This is because mental health EMRs typically require passwords and may contain secure hosting, whether Cloud-based or on-site.
Benefits of Mental Health EMR
The chance that a malicious party would steal hardware like a laptop - or access a desktop - know which program the mental health EMR is, and also have the correct password to access it is far less likely than grabbing data from file cabinets or a chart carelessly left open.
While having a mental health EMR doesn’t reduce the risk of malicious behavior (“Health data sells for 10-20 times more than credit card data.” - 4medapproved), having a secure EMR drastically reduces the success rate of data breaches. Because secure mental health EMRs provide a powerful safeguard for PHI (Protected Health Information), they therefore increase HIPAA security.
While every system is different, and the term itself does not denote data security or HIPAA compliance, mental health EMRs that are hosted securely and have completed HIPAA protocols can add multiple layers of data safeguards / HIPAA compliance to your practice. In this age of fraud, data theft and litigation, additional security measures can be invaluable.
Challenges of Mental Health EMR
It’s no secret that human beings are resistant to change. Even if our logical minds understand and embrace the transition to a system that’s more efficient and less risky than the status quo, there is usually an innate resistance to change itself. One of the biggest challenges of mental health EMR is getting practice staff to abandon their old way of charting to embrace an electronic system.
Mental health providers tend to be especially attached to paper records, probably because laws and industry policy have not created the "mandatory" transition to Practice Management Systems in behavioral health like they have in general medicine or other specialties. Mental and behavioral health tends to be one of the last industries impacted by sweeping updates and therefore has been left to linger on paper longer.
Resistance to mental health EMR is also logical and warranted: there is an initial investment of time, energy and labor to transition to a new system, especially an upgrade to electronic Practice Management Software that can be a dramatic change. There is also the practical consideration of keeping reimbursements flowing and sessions conducting smoothly while changing the franework that a practice operates within.
Most of us have experienced the bottleneck in a doctor’s office that’s changing their Practice Management System and want to minimize this for our own clients. Confronting this common challenge to mental health EMR might feel like changing the tire on a moving car and can be a very tricky obstacle to manage.
Getting your agency staff to “buy in” - and then stay on board throughout the implementation process - are certainly two of the greatest challenges to mental health EMR, both for practices coming off of paper and those upgrading from a legacy (read: outdated) system.
More Information about Mental Health EMR
One of the other significant challenges to mental health EMR is making sense of all of the data available about them, both in general and when comparing system specifics. For more complimentary tools, check out:
7 Steps to Finding the Right EHR for your practice (see form on the right of the linked page)
Should Your EMR Have Canned Notes?
Is Your Staff Hostile to Mental Health EHR?
EMR Resource Center
Mental Health EHR
Behavioral Health EHR
Mental Health Practice Management
Behavioral Health Practice Management