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by Gaby Loria,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: July 28, 2015



We wrote this guide to help you determine what kind of system will best suit your organization.
Here’s what we’ll cover:

Electronic medical record (EMR)/electronic health record (EHR) systems for mental and behavioral health providers have unique features and capabilities specifically for counselors, mental health clinics and group practices. We created this guide to help you understand your options and evaluate the best fit for you.

Here's what this guide will cover:

What Is Mental Health Software?
Common Features of Mental Health Software
Market Trends to Understand

What Is Mental Health Software?

There are a number of features unique to the mental health field that you'll want to look for in a software system. For example, leading systems offer charting templates for evaluation and progress notes, automated coding to ensure highest possible E/M codes and medication and prescription management tools. Additionally, software for psychiatrists, psychologists and behavioral centers often have e-prescribing to electronically generate prescriptions and the proper documentation, and a laboratory request interface to track patient lab results.

Common Features of Mental Health Software

When selecting a mental or behavioral health EMR, providers should consider other features necessary to improve efficiency and care at their agency or facility. For example, some psychiatry electronic medical records allow you to create and store custom, reusable notes in a database for quick retrieval during a patient encounter. Others will need administrative features like a calendar application or patient scheduling system for clinical appointments.

Here are some of the capabilities to consider:

Workflow management Make sure your system facilitates point of care and supports, rather than interferes, with your opportunities for direct patient interaction, thus supporting the way you do business.
Advanced note management Mental and behavioral health specialists may need to access their old notes quickly to review previous sessions. Behavioral health electronic health records software should allow for easy retrieval and viewing of the notes and assessment in multi-axial format.
Specialty EMR templates Specialty psychiatric SOAP notes templates include anxiety, depression, delirium, mania, psychosis, eating disorders, addiction, personality disorders, suicide and more. Providers can use the pre-existing templates or, if desired, customize them even further.
GAF charts Monitor the severity of mental or behavioral factors with a graphical depiction of ongoing progress, rating the social, occupational and psychological functioning of a patient through Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF).
Specialty ICD-9 billing & coding Many mental and behavioral health specialists have needs unique to their practice, depending on their area of focus. A strong solution will provide detailed billing support without the clutter of additional codes you don’t need.

Market Trends to Understand

There are several trends happening in electronic medical records for mental health and psychiatry software. Here are a few you should consider as you select a product and vendor:

ONC-ATCB certification. Perhaps the most significant trend in psychiatric software and mental health systems is the U.S. government-backed move towards electronic medical records (EMR) adoption. A major component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (signed into law by President Obama in 2009) is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which offers a “carrots and sticks” plan for medical offices to adopt mental health electronic health records. Qualified practices can earn up to $44,000 in reimbursements in the form of increased Medicare and Medicaid premiums. To qualify, mental and behavioral health professionals have to show “meaningful use” of ONC-ATCB-certified mental health EHR software.

Guidelines for Stage 2 of HITECH were announced in early 2012, and the deadline for physicians to become meaningful users was set for three years later. Those that fail to qualify will face decreased Medicare and Medicaid payments. For those evaluating mental health software, one major deciding factor should be whether it’s certified or not.

Mobile device support. The number of doctors and medical professionals bringing their mobile devices to work and accessing data on the go—via smartphones, tablets etc.—is growing. Psychology practice management software and psychiatry EMR software vendors are responding by offering more support for wireless devices. Some are even offering native apps for various operating systems (Apple, Android, Windows). When evaluating mental and behavioral health EHR software, consider what you’ll need in terms of mobile support.

Software as a Service (SaaS). The number of buyers interested only in Web-based EMR mental health systems is climbing at a steady rate. As cloud computing catches on in other industries, it is emerging quickly in healthcare as well. Common reasons for behavioral health software adoption include remote access, lower upfront costs and reduced IT burden. Also, developments in HIPAA compliance, data security and encryption, server reliability and data backup make Web-based behavioral health electronic health records viable alternatives for mental health practices.

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