“The lack of portability and the cost and inconvenience of managing paper records was becoming a huge problem for our growing practice,” says Evan Greenwald, PhD, Director of the Counseling Center of Nashua, N.H. He knew it was time to move to electronic health records (EHR), but says there were significant hurdles for a multidisciplinary mental health practice with 50 clinicians operating out of 6 locations. “Our psychologists, social workers, nurses, and psychiatrists all have different documentation needs, medical-legal requirements, and levels of computer experience,” he says. “Getting buy-in from such a diverse group of providers was a real challenge.”
The Solution: Compulink’s Customizable Psych AdvantageTM Gives Everyone What They Want
“Compulink’s customizability has been a huge advantage in preserving clinician autonomy in our practice,” says Dr. Greenwald. He opted for a phased-in adoption of EHR, with voluntary participation at first. “In trying to identify why others were reluctant, we discovered that the biggest barrier was their desire to keep using particular forms. So in Phase II, we have set up unique forms and added tabs, fields, and smart functions to closely match those providers’ established record-keeping styles,” he says. “That way, they can acclimate quickly without a decrease in productivity or professional satisfaction.” With its customized forms in place, the practice is rapidly moving towards mandatory EHR utilization. “The ability to customize software to this degree is absolutely critical to a multidisciplinary mental health practice, but Compulink is rather unique in offering a system that allows us to make changes to existing forms or create our own without spending a fortune,” he says.
Being able to host patient records on their own servers was also a big selling point for Dr. Greenwald. “We looked at some systems that were entirely Web-based,” he says, “But given the high standards for confidentiality of mental health records, I’m more comfortable knowing that the only people who touch our patient database work for me, not some web hosting company.” By customizing log-in rights for different staff members, the practice has further protected access to patient records in order to comply with HIPAA guidelines for allowing access only to those staff within a practice whose job tasks require it.
The Result: Boost Service for Patients and Quality of Life for Clinicians
Thanks to the convenience of electronic records, senior doctors have been more willing to travel to satellite locations, which means the practice can better serve patients, no matter where they are. Patients also don’t have to wait as long for medication refills. “We’re able to scan prior insurance authorizations for non-generic medications right into the EHR, so it’s very easy for staff to quickly update paperwork when a patient switches insurance,” Dr. Greenwald says. “EHR has been a quality-of-life improvement for many of our clinicians,” he maintains. “Not only do they not have to lug around heavy files, but they can leave the office after seeing clients, get home to spend time with their families, and enter progress notes remotely after their kids are in bed.”
Pearls for Success
“Particularly for a large practice, you really have to plan the transition well,” says Dr. Greenwald. “We came up with a detailed, written plan that balances the administrative demands of scanning and converting records with clinicians’ need for time to make the shift to EHR.” He also recommends that practices take a careful look at the location and accessibility of computers, especially for their busiest providers. “In our field, it’s critical to maintain eye contact with patients, so a desktop computer behind the doctor just doesn’t work well. We are moving to a more patient-friendly setup so that doctors can use laptops on small stands that don’t interfere with their engagement with the patient, or arranging desks and desktop computers so that there is no barrier to face-to-face communication.”