February 15, 2023

How to Choose the Best EHR for your Psychiatry Practice (Ask THESE 5 questions)

Written by

Dr. Carlene MacMillan, M.D.

Choosing the right Electronic Health Record (EHR) for your psychiatry practice can be a complex and overwhelming process. With so many options available, you need to ask the right questions to ensure you find the best fit. Otherwise, you could end up in a bad EHR marriage.

This guide is not focused on feature-by-feature comparisons between each EHR.

This guide gives you a framework to choose the best EHR for your psychiatry private practice.

What we’ll cover:

  1. Overview of the EHR space and which category to focus on
  2. Identifying your needs to find the right fit
  3. 5 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Psychiatry EHR to set yourself up for success

Download your EHR Buyer Spreadsheet to fill out these questions as you go. Here is a downloadable template to get you started.

1) The first step is understanding the different types of EHRs available.

EHRs fall into 3 broad categories:

  1. Therapy EHRs
  2. General EHRs
  3. Psychiatric EHRs

If you’re a psychiatrist, psych NP, or manage a practice that requires e-prescribing and labs, you should narrow your search to psychiatric/mental health EHRs. Here’s why:

Therapy EHRs are designed for psychotherapists. While they usually have nice note templates, they may not include essential features such as e-prescribing or lab integration. They’re great for therapists, but psychiatrists and psych NPs may find them lacking.

General EHRs are tailored for any type of private practice but may be overcrowded with features that are not applicable to psychiatry. These medical EHRs may have enough functionality for psychiatrists and psych NPs, but there’s limited functionality for anyone who does therapy.

Psychiatric/Mental Health EHRs are tailored for psychiatrists and focus on elevating the patient experience and automating the delivery of measurement-based care. Psychiatric EHRs are the best of both worlds between medical and therapy EHRs: You get everything you need to streamline therapy AND medical activities.

2)The next step is to identify your needs and priorities as a clinician.

Consider your previous experience with EHRs. List your likes and dislikes.

Even if you’ve only worked with large hospital EHRs like EPIC or Cerner, write a list of what made your work easier. What made your work harder?

Consider any features that you may have been missing that would make your experience even better. By taking the time to think about your personal needs (and your admin team’s needs), you can ensure you find the best fit EHR for your practice.

Important note: No EHR will have EVERYTHING you’re looking for.

List your top 3-5 priorities/needs with an EHR.

When requesting a demo for a psychiatry EHR come prepared with a list of 3-5 of your top priorities. This will help shape the conversation and make the demo a more productive use of your time. The account executive will then show how the EHR can make your life easier, based on what you shared.

Consider your budget.

Do you have a strict budget no matter what you see during demos? Or, are you willing to spend more for the right-fit EHR?

When you identify your budget range, you’ll be able to weed out certain EHRs and reclaim your time.

If you already have an EHR and are looking to switch, askWhat is the cost of staying with my current EHR?”

Each EHR comes with 3 costs:

  1. Money
  2. Time
  3. Sanity

Maybe your current EHR’s support isn’t cutting it. Or, the price just doesn’t seem worth it. But you may be familiar with the sunk cost fallacy.

The thought goes, “well I’ve already invested so much time and energy getting set up with this EHR. Starting my search over just feels too daunting.”

An EHR is like a relationship: if it’s not meeting your needs, you’re better off moving on. Of course, as mentioned earlier, no EHR will meet ALL your needs. That’s why you want to focus on your dealbreakers. Asking about their roadmap will allow you to understand the growth potential for the product, too!

In other words, maybe the EHR doesn’t have everything you’re looking for right now, but you have a shared vision of the future and they’re building towards that.

Just as in dating, it pays to “date around” and explore different EHRs before “putting a ring on it.” An EHR is a huge commitment that integrates with every part of your work.

After you see a few EHR demos, consider whether they can:
  • Save you time writing clinical notes.
  • Provide a higher level of customer support.
  • Provide a great patient experience.

Then ask, what’s the cost of staying with your current EHR?
  • Longer hours?
  • Frustration with support?
  • Upset patients?

Think about your hourly rate. If an EHR can shave hours of admin work off your week, how much is that worth?

Now you know which EHRs are available and you’ve identified your needs. Next, let’s cover the key questions to ask during your EHR demo to ensure you make the best choice for your practice.

Consider these 4 criteria before you book any demo with a psychiatric EHR vendor.

5 questions to ask when selecting a mental health EHR (during the demo).

1) What is the pricing model? Are there any hidden fees or costs I should be aware about?

It’s important to understand what is included in the cost of the EHR and what services you may need to pay extra for, such as onboarding or implementation fees. Some EHR companies include setup, while others charge an implementation fee.

Additionally, it is important to consider the type of contract you are signing. Some EHRs may offer multi-year contracts, which can be difficult to get out of if the EHR does not meet your needs.

Whether it’s support fees, implementation fees, fees per message or reminder—you don’t want to be surprised by these—especially if you’re sticking to a budget.

2) What kind of support do you offer? What does the onboarding and implementation process look like?

It’s essential to know what the onboarding process looks like and what resources are available to help you transition to the new EHR.

  • Will you have a dedicated onboarding coach? Are there customer success representatives you can reach out to for a Zoom call?
  • What hours is your support available?
  • What is your average response time to support requests?
  • Can you speak with someone live? Are they on-shore vs. off-shore? (This affects the hours they can respond to you).

Customer service:

You should expect the quality of service offered to be high (much higher than your cable companies). You don't have much time to wait for answers. You need to trust that the support team will assist you in providing the best care to their patients.

Most EHR companies have a support chatbot on their site and written/video guides. But for harder questions, you want to make sure they have a real person you can talk to who’s easy to contact.

You want a partner that will grow with you and your private practice. That means being available to guide you through the EHR so you can unlock your practice’s full potential.

3) Which vendors are integrated with the EHR and why did you choose them?

Ask about any integrations and customization options that are tailored to your practice's specific needs. For example:
  • Robust telehealth integrations like Zoom. Not all telehealth solutions are equal. Can they  handle group/family appointments?
  • E-prescribing of controlled substances with ability to check state prescription monitoring databases.
  • Lab integrations.
  • Credit card payment processing. What is the rate and fee structure?

4) What makes you tailored to psychiatry? What specifically within the EHR is going to make my day as a mental health clinician easier?

This might be the most important question on the list. You don’t want to be stuck with a general EHR not tailored to your needs as a psychiatrist.

Osmind is a psychiatry ehr built by psychiatrists for psychiatrists. Ask about:

  • Built-in questionnaires like the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 you can send directly and track from the EHR.
  • Medication management and ease of use.
  • Automatic scoring and progress monitoring that make measurement-based care easy.
  • Psychiatry-specific charting templates, intake, and eval notes.
  • Intake questionnaires you can send ahead of time to your patients that auto-populate into your initial eval, so you don’t have to stare at a screen/paper when you first meet them.

5) What’s on the roadmap? What feature have you built recently based on customer feedback?

What is the vision for this EHR? How will they partner with you and help your practice grow? What features have they built recently based on customer feedback? Is this EHR eager to hear your feedback and innovate based on clinician feedback? Or is it stagnant with no real ability to change?

Your sales representative should provide accurate information about the product roadmap and a general timeline for release. They should be honest if they don't know the answer to your question and  promptly circle-back after consulting their team.

At Osmind, we leverage our clinician community for feedback. Beyond product improvements, the clinician community helps clinicians collaborate, answer questions, and stay informed with live virtual events.

Putting it all together

An EHR is a huge commitment. Use these questions and fill out your answers using our downloadable spreadsheet. You’ll stay organized during your EHR search.

Download the spreadhseet to narrow down your EHR choice! Stay organized during 1)pre-demo prioritization, and 2) Demo comparisons)

Ready to put it into action? Book a demo with us. We think you’ll agree we’re the perfect psychiatry EHR for you.

Happy EHR hunting!

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