Is Your EHR Delivering the Flexibility You Need for Your Mental Health Practice?

“One-size-fits-all” rarely works for clothing or meal sizes. So why do we still expect it to work for our EHRs?

We commonly hear the term “one size fits all” and yet run into issues when this term is applied to things we consume on an everyday basis, such as clothing, prepackaged meals, or technology. To be truly functional, one-size-fits-all items usually require extensive customization.

This is especially true with technology. Here’s a simple example: Before I started to write this blog, I set my preferences on Windows OS. My preferences let me be more efficient while also ensuring better performance from my system.

Providers also need to set preferences, configuring their EHRs to accommodate not only the way they work but the nature of their practice. And yet even adequate customization capabilities can’t disguise the fact that most EHRs weren’t designed with mental health providers in mind.


I know many mental health practitioners who find that EHRs still don’t align with their unique clinic needs.


Sometimes the EHR is an out-of-the-box solution with little flexibility. Other times, the software is so convoluted or clunky that set up requires not just a medical degree but one in IT. Either mental health practitioners don’t get what they need, or they spend valuable time creating workarounds to address the software’s shortcomings.

What mental health practitioners do need is an EHR that is flexible enough to align with the unique requirements of a mental health practice, while at the same time simple and easy to use for both providers and patients.

How then can you find a flexible and customizable solution that’s right for your practice?

Consider these three criteria when searching for your new EHR:

1. Flexible: Allows significant customization within the EHR clinical platform
2. Specific: Enables mental health-specific functionality
3. Easy to Use: Provides a modern, easy-to-use, and intuitive experience for mental health patients


Flexible: Allows Customization within the EHR Clinical Platform


Within many EHRs, the first page of a patient’s chart is problematic: the clinical facesheet is often too visually “busy” or congested, featuring labs, vitals, and other information that may not relate to that specialty. In contrast, a truly customizable EHR allows mental health providers to make modifications to these facesheets at any time, delivering a tailored, “right for my practice” experience from the start.

Additionally, EHRs that offer flexible, build-your-own treatment plans can help improve practice synchronization and jumpstart comprehensive treatment options. Build-your-own treatment plans enable clinical decision-making that guides patients toward their goals and includes the ability to monitor progress and adjust treatment plans as necessary. (And better adherence to treatment plans means better outcomes and a higher percentage of collecting practice revenues.)

Offering customizable appointment reminders and confirmations also drive positive results. Providing patients with pertinent information related to their visit, such as parking instructions or a change in office protocols, can increase engagement and patient satisfaction through friendly communications.

Look for:

• Modifiable facesheets
• Build-your-own treatment plans
• Customizable appointment reminders and confirmations




Specific: Enables Mental Health Specific Functionality


Many EHRs on the market today miss the mark on delivering functionality critical for streamlined mental health operations. Often, providers are forced to use existing primary care-based workflows. These workflows then require workarounds that are either inefficient or time consuming. As a result, mental health providers resort to manual, paper-based documentation because the clinical system didn’t offer a way to digitally capture all items related to their service.

Offering flexible digital treatment plan solutions is obvious for mental health EHRs, but other things to consider are digital patient screenings. Clinical decision making can be refined with digital screenings with HAM-A, PCL-5, PHQ-9, GAD-7, and other forms that are typically found in paper-based formats.

When both treatment plans and patient screenings are available digitally, they can easily be shared with patients and signed remotely. Additionally, providers should insist on mental health-focused functionality, such as mental, behavioral, and psychiatry templates, in addition to clinical notes ready for provider use.






Finally, telehealth is an absolute must-have for mental health clinics. For some patients, especially those facing depression or other events related to crisis, leaving home for treatment may be difficult. Tools that can be used in the comfort of a patient’s own home, or even on the go, improve adherence to treatment plans and provide the flexibility to deliver care through the medium of choice.

Look for:

• Flexible, customizable workflows that accommodate all practices, not just primary care
• Digital patient screenings
• Mental-health focused functionality, such as mental, behavioral, and psychiatry templates
• Telehealth capabilities


Easy to Use: Provides a Modern, Intuitive Experience for Mental Health Patients


Mental health practices focused on providing modern, intuitive experiences for their patients find that it boils down to one critical theme: providing clients with flexible options at every point in their care journey. Thriving in today’s patient-centered market requires both a holistic approach and the ability to deliver a positive experience before and after care.

Ideally, an EHR will:

Make it easy for patients to find the practice. Marketing features within the EHR can help prospective patients more easily find—and select—a practice. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Software Advice, 71% of surveyed patients search online as their first step to looking for a doctor and before making an appointment. Search functionalities, provider profiles, and reviews are all important tools in attracting and engaging potential patients.

Eliminate phone tag. Online scheduling eliminates phone tag and allows prospects to choose what time works best for them, providing a greater level of satisfaction before treatment is even delivered. Almost half of respondents in a recent survey said they prefer to find a healthcare practitioner that offers online booking.

Enable online intake forms. Digital intake features give patients the flexibility to complete paperwork in the comfort of their own environment prior to their visit. Practices can email or text an invitation to complete forms and easily pre-validate insurance requirements, along with collecting consent forms, medical histories, and other pertinent demographic information.

Simplify payments. Providing flexible ways to pay is a great way to improve the patient experience. Using features such as Kareo Collect, not only enables practices to send patient statements via email, text and even traditional mail form. Mental health clinics should also make it easy for patients to pay, with Apple Pay, Microsoft Pay, and Google Pay as options, in addition to traditional methods.

Look for:

• Built-in marketing and promotion features
• Online scheduling and intake form capabilities
• Flexible payment options for patients

For assistance with patient collections in your mental health clinic, visit us here.  For tips on how to use technology in your clinic, download our guide, Modernizing Your Mental Health Clinic to Save Time and Improve Care Delivery here.

About the Author

Emily Pathmajeyan is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Kareo.  She has over 10 year’s of experience in Strategic Marketing and Product Management, and is...

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