When EMRs first emerged, behavioral health providers had very few available choices designed to suit their specific needs. Many ended up settling for medically-oriented EMRs that, despite including custom templates designed for their specialty, weren’t entirely suited to their needs.
Lately, however, the tide has turned, and specialist providers – including behavioral health providers — have begun to demand EMRs designed specifically for their needs. In some cases, that involves medical EMRs with robust, well-constructed modules focused on their requirements. In many other cases, however, behavioral health providers are opting for behavioral medical-first systems.
The EMR industry has jumped at the chance to meet this need, so today there’s a very wide range of behavioral health EMR systems available. The key differences between them include:
- Whether they offer a standalone EMR product or an EMR/practice management combination
- Whether they’re cloud-based or offer both cloud-based and on-premise options
- The extent to which they offer electronic payment options, such as debit and credit cards
- Whether their EMR is Meaningful Use certified (relevant if physicians use the system)
- The extent to which they support financial functions such as ICD-10 coding, electronic claims submission and revenue reporting
Simply by conducting a quick Google search, we discovered dozens of behavioral health-oriented EMRs, most of which had a great deal in common. At first glance, it’s difficult to tell them apart, much less rank them. The following, however, are the EMRs mentioned most by providers in an informal survey we conducted. Below is an overview of these vendors and their core software products:
The company’s core offering is the CareLogic EHR, a web-based system designed for behavioral health and human services organizations. Its features include an electronic client record and billing engine, along with quality improvement, reporting and administrative dashboards. Other capabilities include front desk tools, referral management and service requests via a point of entry module.
CareLogic also generates claims automatically, with client service documentation feeding into the billing engine once clinicians complete their services. In addition, the EHR allows clients to create custom service documents and forms which reflect their specific needs.
NetSmart builds on its CareFabric platform, which offers solutions for addiction treatment, behavioral health, child and family services, home health, hospice, private duty and palliative care, intellectual and developmental disabilities, long-term care and public sector/public health.
Netsmart also offers a set of revenue cycle management services supported by its RCM Consulting team, and its CareManagement solution supports care coordination and population health data.
Cerner is an enterprise EMR vendor whose business focuses primarily on hospital clients. The company’s approach to behavioral health is to meld this data with data from other providers, including hospitals and long-term post-acute care centers. It integrates behavioral health with these other providers to care for patients across the continuum of care in an effort to avoid medical errors that can occur during times of transition.
Valant has developed a proprietary platform serving larger behavioral therapy organizations.
It also offers three modules for practitioners in private practice:
- Non-Prescribers Suite: Designed to offer documentation and assessment tools needed by therapists
- Prescribers Suite: Built to support psychiatrists, this module is certified for 2014 Meaningful Use and integrated with tools for ePrescribing and ePrescribing for controlled substances
- Group Practice Suite: Includes a practice management system offering scheduling, billing and reporting functions
Echo Group’s core product is the Visual Health Record/Clinician’s Desktop. Clinician’s Desktop, which is certified for Meaningful Use Stage 2, offers a pre-defined treatment plan content builder, a form designer and reporting tools. Customers can host the software themselves or access it via the cloud.
Its products are certified for compliance in reporting data to Meaningful Use incentive programs.
SimplePractice is designed for therapists, social workers, psychologists and counselors. Its features include support for progress, chart and psychotherapy notes, ICD-10 autocomplete, treatment plan tracking and support for mental status exams.
It also offers credit card processing, autopay functions, electronic claim filing, a secure messaging platform and a client portal.
The TherapyNotes platform includes practice management and EMR software. The system includes the ability to track clinician schedules, patient appointments with corresponding notes and billing within the scheduling system.
Its EMR-based note-taking features are built around forms designed for psychology, therapy, counseling, social work and psychiatry. This includes form-based note templates for treatment plans, progress notes and psychological evaluations.
Therapy Notes’ practice management functions include one-click electronic claims submission, direct receipt of Electronic Remittance Advice from some insurance companies, credit/debit/HSA card processing and the ability to generate patient statements, superbills, CMS 1500 forms and financial reports.
Other Behavioral Health EMRs
While these seven behavioral health EMRs stand out among industry observers, other systems include:
- Sigmund Software
- NextStep Solutions
- Dr Cloud EHR
Generally speaking, these systems are similar to those listed above, but for varied reasons they haven’t had the higher visibility the top seven systems have. This may very well be due to the large number of EMRs available on the market rather than their inherent quality level or ability to meet the specialized demands of behavioral health organizations.
Ultimately, every organization needs to prepare a well-thought-out list of EMR requirements and use that list to guide their vendor choices. Sometimes, a lesser-known system might serve a behavioral health practice’s needs as well as those developed by vendors with a larger marketing budget.
If your organization knows what it needs to support its clinicians effectively, it’s far more likely to end up making the right choice among the many behavioral health EMRs on the market. Every organization has different workflow patterns, different clinical styles and different administrative issues to address. Screen EMR vendors against your specific requirements and your investment is likely to be a success.