An EHR designed for mental health offer many benefits to the psychiatry practice, including legible and thorough patient records, clinical decision-making support (such as prompting the provider about patient safety), and remote or flexible access to these records. Over time, these benefits should result in improved patient safety and overall quality of care. These improvements should then result in lowered professional liability claims.
Industry analysts report that medical innovation is frequently followed by new or added risk to providers and patients. Psychiatrists and psychologists must prioritize patient safety as they actively address and manage risks associated with the addition of electronic health records. Keep in mind the following three “wrong questions” to ask about a new psychiatry electronic health record system:
1) How do we find the time to learn and use a new EHR? (There aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish tasks now.)
Medical health providers must take the time to learn how to use a new electronic health records system. A negative attitude about the “imposition” of the system is a moot point. If the provider wants to earn Medicare and Medicaid incentives, and if he or she is sincerely focused on improving patient care, doing things as the office has always done them just won’t work.
Technology can benefit all psychiatrists and psychologist in search of streamlining basic requirements, such as:
- Scheduling appointments
- Collecting new patient information and history data as part of an assessment
- Retrieving patient information from a single place
- Ordering patient prescriptions at a chosen pharmacy
- Communicating with a patient’s medical and wellness provider team
All users should receive training about how to use the EHR. Before deciding on the best EHR investment, ask the vendor about a presentation demonstration or a short free trial. User satisfaction is the most frequently offered reason that EHR vendor and user “marriages” fail.
2. How can an EHR possibility help our office improve the security of patient health care information?
Perhaps the mental healthcare provider’s office has kept physical patient records for years. The file is retrieved prior to a patient session, and it is supposed to stay in the locked file overnight.
Practically speaking, however, the provider might sometimes take a patient file or two out of the locked file to review it overnight. The patient’s sensitive and personal health care information might be lost or stolen.
An EHR system makes patient information security a priority. If the provider needs to access patient records from another location or via mobile devices, an appropriate EHR with this access feature can be selected. The patient’s information remains in securely in place for the provider to review or modify at any time.
When another provider contacts the psychiatrist’s office, adding notes to the patient file is a simple task. Physical retrieval and secure return of the file is unnecessary. Communication tasks associated with laboratories, pharmacies, and insurance companies are similarly eased.
Electronic health records and EHR systems underscore the importance of protecting and securing sensitive patient information. It is the provider’s responsibility to understand who has access to patients’ data and how only required, minimally needed patient information is accessed.
The provider must understand his or her state requirements for electronic health record systems and know that the chosen vendor is in compliance with these laws. Similarly, it is the provider’s responsibility to comply with federal HIPAA and HITECH requirements. It is essential for the provider to confirm that the EHR vendor compliance with all state and federal laws.
3. How do we really know we’ve chosen the right EHR system and vendor? Can’t we just pay a fine and wait until we know what’s best later?
All practices must take the time and effort to evaluate multiple EHR systems and vendors now. The truth is that today’s EHR vendor marketplace is fragmented. Early vendors without staying power have been replaced by stronger and more vigorous competitors.
You can winnow the decision-making process by using resources available from credible resources:
- The American Medical Association Checklist offers a list of questions to answer prior to signing a new EMR vendor agreement.
- The American Psychiatric Association offers a section about the quality improvement process and EHRs.
- The American Academy of Neurology offers information about health information technology and EHRs for providers.