If you’re among the thousands of therapy practices that want to go paperless or replace clinical software, you’ve come to the right place. It can be daunting to sort through the many electronic health record (EHR) systems out there for mental and behavioral health care providers. What’s more, pricing and functionality varies greatly from system to system.
This guide will help you better understand the therapy software market. Using it, you can narrow down your list of potential products for an upcoming purchase.
We’ll discuss the following:
What Is Therapy Software?
The term “therapy software” applies to any software that helps therapists deliver better care, manage their practice or process their billing. These systems offer a range of tools that facilitate everything from clinical documentation to scheduling and insurance claims submission.
Therapy software vendors may sell a single application, such as therapy notes, as a stand-alone solution. Alternatively, they may offer a number of applications bundled together to form an integrated EHR suite for therapists.
The breadth and depth of applications in the system you choose will depend on your needs, user base and budget. This is especially true in therapy practices, which come in all manner of sizes and specialties employing social workers, therapists, counselors, psychiatrists and/or psychologists:
If you’re a smaller therapy provider and/or outsource your medical billing, it might be more cost-effective to seek stand-alone applications to fill specific gaps in health information technology. For example, if your only goal with a new system is to digitize your staff’s clinical notes, buying a stand-alone clinical documentation system makes more sense than a full EHR. Otherwise, you may end up paying for functions you don’t need, such as e-prescribing or patient portals.
Since larger therapy providers tend to have a larger number of users and require a greater level of care coordination, integrated therapy EHR suites are often the more practical choice. With several different functions packaged together, it’s easier to extract meaningful health outcomes data while tracking clinical and budgetary goals.
Common Functionality of Therapy Software
As we explained above, the tools provided in therapist software products may vary. Here are some of the most common ones, which may be sold as stand-alone applications or as part of integrated suites:
|Clinical documentation||Therapists can create, store and review a number of digital clinical documents for each patient’s records. These include intake notes, progress notes, treatment plans, medical histories and more.|
|Electronic claim filing||Users can file claims electronically through the system, then track progress to see which claims have been submitted, accepted and approved.|
|Appointment scheduling||Allows users to schedule single or recurring appointments in a digital calendar. Some systems let you track cancellations and no-shows or send automated therapy appointment reminders to your patients through email, text or phone.|
|Billing||Most solutions allow for a number of different billing functions. These include generating patient invoices, statements and superbills. The software can also produce single or batch CMS-1500s and/or billing reports.|
|Coding||When filling out clinical documentation, most systems allow users to select the appropriate DSM-5 and/or ICD-10 codes from a pre-populated menu for faster, more accurate coding.|
Market Trends to Understand
Once you’ve identified your organization’s must-have software functions and are ready to start considering specific vendors, it’s important to consider these market trends:
HIPAA compliance. The government’s privacy and security laws—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act—help safeguard patient data, and they carry steep penalties if violated. Reputable vendors will make sure you understand how and why their products can help you achieve HIPAA compliance by explaining data protection and encryption capabilities.
Cloud-based systems. One of the first choices you’ll have to make when selecting new software is whether to pick a cloud-based or an on-premise system.
Cloud-based systems are becoming increasingly common in the therapy software market, as they bring a number of benefits:
- Remote accessibility
- Lower upfront costs
- Software updates handled by vendor
- System maintenance handled by vendor
It’s important to note, however, that therapy practices in rural settings may have a hard time accessing the broadband Internet that’s required to run a Web-based system.