These days, it’s hard for mental and behavioral health care providers to get the financial support they need. Some states slash their mental health budgets deeper each year, even as the demand for better care is gaining momentum nationwide.
In response, health care organizations “must pinch pennies and be highly innovative just to be able to deliver care to the … people [they] serve,” writes Tuerk Schlesinger, CEO of behavioral health provider AltaPointe Health Systems, in the Selma Times-Journal.
Given this, it’s more important than ever for providers to mount capital campaigns, which help fund a facility’s health care services through sources such as charitable grants and private donor contributions.
This guide will outline key mental health technology tools that can enhance your facility’s fundraising efforts.
Why Is Mental Health EHR Software Important?
Mental and behavioral electronic health records (EHR) software can help providers track and report positive patient health outcomes, so facilities can better prove their value to donors. Using this software can also improve care quality among clinicians and ensure expenditures are well accounted for.
Molly O’Neill, president and CEO of First Call Alcohol/Drug Prevention & Recovery in Kansas City, Missouri, says her EHR system plays a “huge role” in achieving clinical and budgetary goals. It’s important, she explains, to show potential contributors and financial partners the impact your facility’s services have on the community, as well as the efficiency of your operations.
Electronic Patient Assessments
Clinicians must regularly assess patients’ mental health and wellbeing through a mix of observations, inquiries, evaluations and surveys, which are recorded in each session’s therapy notes. Some examples include the DLA-20 and the PHQ-9.
Using an EHR, clinicians can complete these assessments entirely within the program. This can make it easier for providers to garner meaningful insights about patient treatment trends.
With electronic patient assessment tools, all patient data lives in one central location all users can access—rather than having to gather the data from handwritten forms stored in various physicians’ files.
Electronic patient assessments follow a streamlined format that ensure every clinician is gathering information in a comprehensive manner. And since they’re digital, all records are clearly legible.
This is vital when it comes to enhancing your fundraising efforts: The way you collect assessment information can affect the efficiency with which you measure it and present it to contributors.
If the data is standardized, computerized and tracked in an EHR, you can eliminate hours of time-consuming, inefficient manual coding for your staff.
An electronic patient assessment in Community CareLink EHR
O’Neill and her team use Community CareLink EHR, a proprietary solution created by First Call that is available for other practices to purchase and use. She says her team frequently uses a tool called the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), which contains patient interview questions for substance abuse assessment and treatment planning.
“[The ASI] has been on paper for years,” she says. “We brought it into our EHR, so now it’s filled out electronically.”
O’Neill explains that digitizing this assessment allowed her team to make it even more robust and efficient than its paper-based equivalent. First Call added extra questions to the assessment, and added drop-down menus to the answer fields so they’re faster to complete.
The ability to customize assessments this way is standard in other EHR systems, too.
We’ve seen why it’s important to collect patient assessment data electronically. Now it’s time for a closer look at what you can do with all that data once it’s stored in your EHR.
Analytics functionality can help you present your facility’s patient health outcomes in a variety of ways. “Health outcomes” refer to a quantified improvement in a patient, or group of patients, over time.
Examples include a reduction in rehospitalization rates or the number of self-harm incidents. This could also include results from the assessment measures discussed above, such as PHQ-9 and ASI.
O’Neill says tracking health outcomes is important, because one of the best ways to secure funding opportunities is to “be able to offer qualified data as to the improvement of people’s lives.
“You really have to be able to say, for example: ‘By the end of this year, we expect to reduce substance abuse in teens by at least 5 percent,’” she explains.
Many EHR systems can help you quickly and easily generate this kind of outcomes data. To get a sense of what this looks like, below is a screenshot from Valant’s enterprise product, the Valant Platform.
Valant’s analytics capabilities allow facility administrators to create dashboards and reports based on outcomes data. From here, they can visualize the success of specific treatment programs in patient groups by:
- Filtering by geographic region (e.g., ZIP code)
- Filtering by demographic category (e.g., age, gender, race etc.)
And no programming skills are required, thanks to Valant’s integration with business intelligence vendor Tableau (access to Tableau tools is included with the subscription fee).
Reports & Analytics dashboard in the Valant Platform
This dashboard example visualizes outcomes data about patients in Washington state undergoing a depression treatment program. You can see the communities served in the state map, and a regional breakdown incorporating age-group demographics in the upper-right chart.
At the bottom, there are charts showing high-level diagnostic data about how a specific treatment impacts the specific outcomes measurement (PHQ-9).
The data used in these graphs is automatically pulled, in real time, from electronic patient assessments and other workflows clinicians enter in the system. This eliminates duplicate data entry and the need for manual coding, and ensures all information is always up to date.
As Chaz Casazza, Valant’s product marketing manager, explains, the dashboard allows users to easily filter or group patient data in different ways using drop-down arrows. Segmenting data this way is not only useful for grants and fundraising, but also for clinical purposes, such as performance improvement.
Another multi-purpose mental health software tool is financial reporting. Providers must keep track of revenue, expenses and budgets for internal purposes—and it’s also important to have this information handy when preparing for a capital campaign.
“You need to demonstrate you have strong financial controls in place, and that you’re able to be very transparent to show you’ll be good stewards of the donor contribution,” says O’Neill.
The best way to demonstrate transparency is to use an EHR suite with robust financial reporting capabilities, which can pull a variety of reports to share with contributors. Athena’s Penelope Case Management Software, for example, has more than 100 clinical and financial reports built in:
Penelope Client Management Solution by Athena
Mental and behavioral health care providers should look for systems that can generate standard documents, such as year-end financial statements, with the same ease as specialized service delivery reports. These allow users to drill down on how specific funding sources are being used.
For example, O’Neill used her system’s financial reporting tools to determine that $150,000 in grant funds from the Greater Kansas City Health Care Foundation had helped finance $350,000 worth of patient care at First Call.
By using the EHR to segment and track the way that grant money was put to use, First Call was able to present a service delivery report to the Foundation featuring positive, data-driven insights.
“We were able to say, ‘Here is our service delivery report, and here is what you paid for,” says O’Neill. “So we were able to demonstrate that they got a lot of bang for their buck.”
Using these types of reports to show donors where their money is going makes it more likely they’ll give again. In fact, a 2014 Software Advice survey found that 60 percent of donors need to hear impact stories to learn exactly how their first donation is making a difference before they’ll consider making a second one.
Final Considerations and Next Steps
All the tools described above are fairly common in EHR suites. However, there are often significant differences when it comes to the user interface and the breadth and depth of functionality offered. The pricing on each system will vary, as well.
“Organizations struggle getting an affordable EHR with tools that are not too cumbersome, and [that] just give them what they need so [the software doesn’t] cost them an arm and a leg,” says O’Neill. “It’s a tough conundrum for folks in our world right now.”
Here are some steps you can take right now to avoid that conundrum:
- Download our free pricing guide. We put together a pricing guide specifically tailored to mental and behavioral health care providers. In it, you’ll learn how to calculate the total cost of ownership for popular EHR systems.
- Read reviews from real EHR users. Read real user reviews for EHR systems by clicking on individual products on our website. Reviewers address everything from ease of use to specific functionality, helping you further evaluate how a system will perform in clinical settings.
- View product demos. Nowadays, most vendors produce demo videos showcasing the look and feel of their EHR solutions. These can usually be found on YouTube, on the vendor’s website or in the product profiles on our website.
- Call Software Advice. Our team of expert Software Advisors are ready to learn more about your particular needs, and can provide a custom software quote for your practice. Just give them a call at (888) 918-2745 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By following these tips, it’ll be easier for you to put together a short list of systems that are right for your needs and budget.