Tuesday, March 07 |

EHR System Selection 101

By Netsmart

Selecting an EHR system for your behavioral health agency is a critical business decision that requires in-depth planning and research. The more upfront time you put into researching and planning for your behavioral health EHR system selection, the better the ultimate results can be. This article covers the steps you should take to prepare for this important decision.

Getting started

The first step in EHR system selection is to create a leadership team. Your leadership team should include members of your administrative staff, clinicians, and executive team to get a well-rounded picture of your agency’s needs and requirements. Consider having a project manager on the leadership team from the business side of your behavioral health agency and a project sponsor from the clinical side. This will help you mesh client care with business requirements.

The next step is to document your agency’s workflows. Include everything from the initial intake of a new client through scheduling, clinician’s assessment and treatment plan, billing and collections, and other administrative duties like reporting requirements. This is what will guide your evaluation of the EHR system selection process because any system you choose will affect workflows in some manner. It’s important to know that you may need to revise your workflows to dovetail with the way your new EHR system operates.

Finally, determine the key goals of your agency. In addition to your short-term business and client goals, consider what you longer term strategic objectives may be. You want to choose a system that supports your agency requirements today and as you change and grow your practice in the future.

Choose 3 to 5 leading EHR system vendors

Any fewer than 3 vendors will narrow your choices too much, and anything above 5 will make it more difficult to evaluate and compare vendors. At this point, you main objective is to understand how each EHR software solution will help you accomplish your agency’s goals.

Create a matrix to help you measure how each EHR vendor’s system matches up with your strategic goals today and in the future. Then it’s time to send out Requests for Proposals to your chosen vendors. Make sure to include the following questions to help you evaluate each vendor’s response:

  • Can you clarify pricing, including hardware, software, maintenance, and costs to upgrade now and in the future?
  • What support do you provide for implementation?
  • How do you handle follow-up support and ongoing issues after implementation?

Once you receive your chosen vendors’ responses, use your matrix to help you compare how each EHR meets or exceeds your objectives and goals. If you’re able, narrow your choice down to the top 2 or 3 systems and request a demonstration. Invite both administrative staff, clinicians, and executives to the demonstration to get their input on how each system functions and whether it meet their specific needs.

It’s time to make your EHR system selection. Choose the EHR system or platform that most comprehensively encompasses your workflows, helps you achieve agency goals and objectives, and offers plenty of support to ensure your success.


Covering these steps in your EHR planning process and getting the input and feedback from representatives of all areas in your practice places you in a better position during the evaluation phase and implementation. Not only will it help to create buy-in from staff, but you’ll have a greater understanding of your business and clinical requirements for an EHR system and can choose the one that best meets your needs. And by matching EHR system selection with your workflows, you ease some of the transition anxiety that is common for your staff and clinicians to feel when facing change.

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Netsmart ·

From the CareThreads Blog