What does “mental health EMR” mean? What are the benefits and challenges of considering one for your practice or agency?
The Definition of Mental Health EMR?
EMR means Electronic Medical Records, essentially a paperless version of your clients’ charts. Also commonly known as EHR, or Electronic Health Records, this term’s description can run the gamut from a Word / PDF version of paper notes to a sophisticated Practice Management System that incorporates every aspect of a mental health agency.
While the possibilities under the umbrella of “mental health EMR” are broad, the term is typically used to describe software or an electronic program that keeps client charts safer – and practice data more secure – than traditional paper charts. This is because mental health EMRs typically require passwords and may contain secure hosting, whether Cloud-based or on-site.
The chance that a malicious party would steal hardware like a laptop – or access a desktop – know which program the mental health EMR is. It would also have the correct password to access it is far less likely than grabbing data from file cabinets or a chart carelessly left open.
Having a mental health EMR doesn’t reduce the risk of malicious behavior (“Health data sells for 10-20 times more than credit card data.” – 4medapproved). However, having a secure EMR drastically reduces the success rate of data breaches. Because secure mental health EMRs provide a powerful safeguard for PHI (Protected Health Information), they therefore increase HIPAA security.
While every system is different, and the term itself does not denote data security or HIPAA compliance. Mental health EMRs hosted securely and completed HIPAA protocols can add multiple layers of data safeguards / HIPAA compliance to your practice. Additional security measures can be invaluable in this age of fraud, data theft, and litigation.
It’s no secret that human beings are resistant to change. Even if our logical minds understand and embrace the transition to a more efficient and less risky system than the status quo, there is usually an innate resistance to change itself. One of the biggest challenges of mental health EMR is getting practice staff to abandon their old way of charting to embrace an electronic system.
Mental health providers tend to be especially attached to paper records. This is probably because laws and industry policy have not created the “mandatory” transition to Practice Management Systems in behavioral health as they have in general medicine or other specialties. Mental and behavioral health tends to be one of the last industries impacted by sweeping updates and therefore has been left to linger on paper longer.
Resistance to mental health EMR is also logical and warranted: there is an initial investment of time, energy and labor to transition to a new system. This is especially true with an upgrade to electronic Practice Management Software. That can be a dramatic change. There is also the practical consideration of keeping reimbursements flowing and sessions conducting smoothly while changing the framework within a practice.
Most of us have experienced the bottleneck in a doctor’s office that’s changing its electronic system and want to minimize this for our own clients. Confronting this common challenge to mental health EMR might feel like changing the tire on a moving car and can be a very tricky obstacle to manage.
Getting your agency staff to “buy in” – and stay on board throughout the implementation process – are certainly two of the greatest challenges to mental health EMR. This is true both for practices coming off of paper and those upgrading from a legacy system.
One of the other significant challenges to mental health EMR is making sense of all of the data available about them, both in general and when comparing system specifics. For more complimentary tools, check out our EHR Resource Center.