Wednesday, February 22 |

Why Implementing Behavioral Health EMR Software is an Investment Not an Expense

By Netsmart

The number of behavioral health facilities implementing EMR software is on the rise, mainly to improve client care and organization performance.

Measuring ROI

The greater majority of behavioral health organizations that have already implemented new software are satisfied with their decision to move to an EMR system. However, because behavioral healthcare is complex and individualized, it’s difficult to measure EHR ROI. Value in a behavioral health organization is measured in non-monetary ways.

Why EMR Software is an Investment

Implementing behavioral health EMR software is an investment, not an expense, for a variety of reasons. The most important one is that it provides long-term benefits and is a tool for reducing certain expenses.

This reason alone is important to organizations that can’t count on federal subsidies.

Also, behavioral health organizations need to look at both quality and quantity to make sense of ROI. One benefit that doesn’t technically create new revenue is decreasing the staff time spent on regulatory reporting and other administrative or billing functions. The cumulative effect of decreased expenses in these areas can improve the bottom line.

Understanding Behavioral Health EHR Workflows

EHR implementation can be a complicated and sometimes disruptive process if you don’t plan in advance. It all starts with your workflows. Documenting your workflows can help you organize the implementation process and get staff and clinician buy-in for your new behavioral health EHR system. In fact, workflow analysis and potentially redesigning your workflows to mesh with your new EHR system can help you save money, engender staff satisfaction with the change, smooth the transition, and ultimately improve your clients’ experience.

What are workflows?

A workflow is the set of tasks necessary to provide a service to clients. For example, refilling a prescription is a workflow as is an intake of a new client. Individual tasks in the intake workflow could be confirming a client’s insurance, gathering the necessary personal information and scheduling an appointment.

Documenting all of your agency’s workflows can be time-consuming but will help you identify areas that need improvement. It’s important that your workflows be optimized before implementation because an ineffective workflow will only cause frustration when using your new EHR.

Analyzing your workflows will reveal inefficiencies and bottlenecks. You can use the analysis to rearrange, eliminate or restructure your workflows. For example, some processes can be made less time-consuming, or you could eliminate too many hand-offs. Also, you can establish clear accountability for each task, making it easier to measure productivity.

How to analyze your workflows.

The first step is to create a team of representatives from administration, clinical staff, clerical and billing personnel, and executives. You want to capture the full lifecycle of a client, which spans across different departments and personnel. This first step will be great in helping you to identify where hand-offs occur, understand how each person’s role can be affected by others, and improve communication.

After documenting each step in your behavioral health agency’s EHR workflows, you may be surprised at how roles and responsibilities have evolved over the years or the amount of on-the-fly tasks that occur. At this point, it is of vital importance that the staff performing the tasks have an opportunity to review the workflows to ensure that each one is clear and represented correctly.

It is also incredibly important to capture paper forms used by all personnel if you’re still using them. You’ll need to understand how the data captured on paper fits in with your workflows so you can identify how it will be implemented electronically in your new behavioral health EHR system.

Analyzing your workflows will show you:

  • The crucial sequence of steps in each process.

  • Bottlenecks or interruptions in the flow.

  • Solutions to eliminate bottlenecks.

  • Opportunities to make efficiency improvements.

  • Ways to redesign workflows, so they mesh with an EHR.

  • How to take advantage of your new EHR’s automation.

Creating new workflows

The result of your existing EHR workflow analysis is to identify how your agency will operate once the new behavior health EHR implementation occurs. Certain tasks and workflows will need to change to reflect the flow of information in your EHR accurately, and others will need to change to take advantage of the EHR’s automation.

It’s important that you have a thorough understanding of how your new EHR functions to create new EHR workflows. A demonstration of the EHR software solution can show staff and clinicians what the platform automates and how it will simplify your workflows. Your new workflows can be an integral part of your new EHR system training materials, helping staff and clinicians learn the new processes and how they work in the EHR.

It’s important to point out that you shouldn’t rely on your EHR vendor for workflow analysis. Your agency’s staff and clinicians on the front line are the real subject-matter experts. You’ll get better results and greater staff buy-in when employees directly create your new workflows.

Advantages of Electronic Health Records for Behavioral Health Agencies

Behavioral health is a multidisciplinary field of clinicians, counselors, social workers, billers, and executives who all collaborate and focus on delivering comprehensive, client-centered care for each client they service. Aligning these functions within your organization is where the value of electronic health records (EHR) comes into play. Whether you’re still using paper charts and records, or you have an existing EHR system that’s outdated or light on functionality, here are a few benefits of a full EHR system integration:

  1. Reduce your lengthy client intake process. If your current intake process takes too much time, using electronic health records will help automate and streamline the process. This streamlined process reduces the manual efforts to keep clients from waiting by processing them quickly and efficiently.

  2. Keep track of client eligibility. Insurance can come with restrictions on the type of care and number of visits. An EHR system helps to automate and track client eligibility daily, so that you provide proper treatment and get reimbursed for authorized care.

  3. Reduce or eliminate problems with no-shows. EHR solutions automate client reminders about appointments by sending text messages, phone calls, or emails that significantly reduce no-shows and reduce the time spent manually calling or emailing clients.

  4. Easily generate reports. Need to gather data for a program funding report? It’s easy with an EHR solution that has a set of readily available report templates. Or customize a report to collect the parameters you need to analyze with data that has already been captured within the system.

  5. Reduce effort and time spent preparing for an audit. Thanks to automated data aggregation and electronic health records, you can quickly and easily prepare for an audit—almost at the click of a button.

  6. Streamline administrative tasks. Automate routine and tedious administrative billing tasks with an EHR system. For example, you can automate your billing to run at your leisure that includes scrubbed claims reducing your denial rates and increases reimbursements.

  7. Gather business intelligence. Paper records don’t lend themselves easily to aggregating data to make outcomes more visible. An EHR solution makes it easy to determine what’s driving your results.

  8. Spend more time with clients. Most importantly, a fully integrated EHR platform allows clinicians to spend more time with clients and less time on cumbersome administration, record keeping, and other busywork.

Can an EHR Help With Behavioral Health Revenue Management?

Not only is behavioral health revenue management software imperative for agencies today to help track, monitor, and process their revenue cycle management functions, but it offers many benefits that are both qualitative and quantitative.

The key to success with revenue management software is to invest in a fully integrated behavioral health EHR solution that incorporates every step of the client lifecycle into its workflows. It is the only way you’ll have a holistic view of the client lifecycle and client outcomes.

Behavioral health revenue management software goes beyond mere billing software to encompass reporting and analytical features that help you manage the revenue cycle better. It integrates all workflows in the full client lifecycle, from intake to scheduling and clinician appointments, treatment options and e-prescribing to billing, collections, and analytics for reporting and tracking purposes.

Benefits of behavioral health revenue management software

There are many benefits like the reduced waste of time spent on repetitive administrative tasks and the increase in efficiencies in every area of a behavioral health agency. Many of the benefits result in improved cash flow, and having cash on hand gives executives the peace of mind knowing the agency can stay operational.

Here are a few of the more pertinent benefits that makes an investment in behavioral health revenue management software a good choice.

  • Reduce bad debt through optimized revenue cycle management When you automate your revenue cycle management, you can identify issues earlier and make changes to reduce your bad debt and increase your cash flow.

  • Reduce outstanding accounts receivable days to under 90 days, which helps to eliminate spikes in your cash flow.

  • Improve billing efficiencies, resulting in less administrative time spent, sometimes from hours a day to minutes a day.

  • Increase claims reimbursement on first-time billings for improved revenue and cash flow, again eliminating the spikes that cause so many problems for behavioral health agencies.

Why revenue management should be part of a fully integrated EHR solution

A fully integrated behavioral health EHR system is a single reservoir of centrally located data that everyone in your agency can access. It covers all data created and managed during a client’s lifecycle. The integrated solution eliminates hand-offs and missing information and allows for a full view of a client’s care and treatment.

If you have disparate systems currently that don’t talk, you’re leaving silos of information needed by others in your agency. Silos not only waste time as information needs to pass manually between staff and clinicians, but also cause you to leave money on the table in unrealized revenue.

A fully integrated EHR system offers automated claims submissions and posting, helping to level your cash flow spikes. It also reduces duplicative administrative tasks, increasing efficiency and making for more satisfied staff.

Finally, holistic reporting benefits all areas of your business, including financials, client outcomes, staff productivity, and other measures. When you have access to all data created and managed by your agency when performing client care, you can measure and improve your processes in all areas.

What Are the Benefits of Practice Management Software for Behavioral Health Practices?

Caring for the 25 percent of Americans who suffer from mental health disorders is complex. Clients may have underlying medical conditions and socioeconomic situations contributing to low compliance rates, along with many other variables making it more difficult to offer treatment.

Finding practice management software for behavioral health organizations can help you pinpoint and improve financial and organizational barriers. Here are two main benefits of implementing a behavioral health practice management software solution.

Creates operational efficiencies

How much time does your staff currently spend trying to track down insurance eligibility or find out what your no-show rate is for the year? If your answer is “a significant amount,” you could enjoy the operational efficiencies practice management software provides.

Another efficiency you can gain if you choose a platform that integrates practice management and an EHR solution is in intake and scheduling. Front office staff use the same system that clinicians use, so information like the number of payer-allowed visits and dates of appointments scheduled is attainable by everyone.

Finally, built-in scheduling and automated reminders allow interdepartmental sharing, reducing no-shows and helping you reach clients where and how they like communications.

Financial and security improvements

Consider how authorization management can help your practice financially. Every time a session note uses authorization, the system tracks the note. You get an alert when you’re nearing the limit of authorized visits, so you’re never saddled with the cost of a visit that’s not allowed by the payer.

The increase in data security a practice management software system provides can pay for itself in less financial risk of breach. Find a practice management software system that offers HIPAA compliance and reduce your risk of costly security breaches.

You’ll gain impressive efficiencies with an integrated practice management system, clinical platform, and revenue cycle management solution. If you currently have disparate systems that cover each of these areas, consider the time it takes to gather information because these systems don’t talk or sync together. An integrated system offers you data at your fingertips.

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