Providers Growingly Concerned About EHR Functionalities & The Technologies Needs For Future Service Delivery & Reimbursement: Top EHR Trends From The 2021 OPEN MINDS National Behavioral Health EHR Survey

Originally presented on October 19, 2021.

We’re bombarded with stories about electronic health records (EHR) evolving to become more flexible and use more services like blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and artificial intelligence, but what do your peers report firsthand? We recently concluded the sixth annual OPEN MINDS National Behavioral Health EHR Survey and found that 53% of provider organizations report their EHR does not have all the functionalities they need. Only 19% report their clinical, scheduling, billing, and reporting and analytics functionalities as meeting their needs. These Core 4 functionalities are crucial to service delivery and organizational sustainability.

In this webinar, OPEN MINDS Senior Associate, Joe Naughton-Travers, shared the results of the 2021 OPEN MINDS National Behavioral Health EHR Survey and discussed what organizations can do to plan for the next advances in health care technology and service delivery. Mr. Travers also discussed the growing concern among providers and what functionalities to be looking at for future service delivery and timely reimbursements.

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Top EHR Trends In 2021: Results Of The Annual Behavioral Health EHR Survey

We’re bombarded with stories about electronic health records (EHR) evolving to become more flexible and use more services like blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and artificial intelligence, but what do your peers report firsthand? We recently concluded the sixth annual National Behavioral Health EHR Survey and found that only 19% of provider organizations report their clinical, scheduling, billing, and reporting and analytics functionalities as meeting their needs. These Core 4 functionalities are crucial to service delivery and organizational sustainability.

Join OPEN MINDS Senior Associate, Joe Naughton-Travers, for a free webinar on October 19 at 1:00pm ET to hear the results of the 2021 National Behavioral Health EHR Survey and what your organization can do to plan for the next advances in health care technology and service delivery. Mr. Travers will also discuss the differing needs of small and large provider organizations when it comes to EHRs for service delivery and timely reimbursements. Join us to learn:

  • Results of the 2021 National Behavioral Health EHR Survey
  • How small and large provider organizations differ in their EHR needs
  • Best practices for finding an EHR that is the right fit for your organization

Maximize Your Organizational Effectiveness With Analytics & Reporting: Unique Case Studies As Told By Monarch & Options Counseling & Family Services

Originally presented on 9/28/2021

Improving value, competitive advantage, and sustainability are top of mind for executives of most behavioral health and human services provider organizations. None of these improvements are possible without consistent, high-quality reporting and analytics. Implementing analytics and reporting is much easier than you may believe.

During this webinar, Scott Budzien, Data Scientist at Monarch; Adam Falk, Chief Information Officer at Options Counseling and Family Services; and Christy Winter, Senior Product Manager, Analytics, at Qualifacts + Credible dove into the world of reporting and analytics, and how they can benefit an organization. Our panelists discussed the difference between reporting and analytics and the value each provides to your organization. They also discussed several key strategies for successfully implementing reporting and analytics in your culture. Monarch and Options Counseling & Family Services also shared their journeys into the world of reporting and analytics and how they implemented processes and tools to become more data driven.

Maximize Your Organizational Effectiveness With Analytics & Reporting

Improving value, competitive advantage, and sustainability are top of mind for executives of most behavioral health and human services provider organizations. None of these improvements are possible without consistent, high-quality reporting and analytics. Implementing analytics and reporting is much easier than you may believe.

Join Christy Winters, Senior Product Manager, Analytics, of Qualifacts + Credible on September 28 at 1:00pm ET, for a deep dive into the world of reporting and analytics, and how they can benefit your organization. She will discuss the difference between reporting and analytics and the value each provides to your organization. She will also discuss several key strategies for successfully implementing reporting and analytics in your culture. You will also explore two organizations’ journeys into the world of reporting and analytics and see how they implemented processes and tools to become more data driven.

During this 60-minute executive web briefing, you will:

  • Discover concrete strategies to better incorporate reporting and analytics into your organization
  • Understand the unique value analytics and reporting provide your organization
  • Hear firsthand how two provider organizations implemented processes and tools to become more data driven

Your Post-Pandemic Workforce: Trends In Hiring & Retaining Top Talent

This Knowledge Partner session sponsored by Qualifacts + Credible took place on August 24, 2021 at The 2021 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute. In the post pandemic job market, many employers are finding it difficult to hire and retain staff. Even before COVID-19, there was a shortage of behavioral health care professionals which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The uncertainty of this past year has also changed what many employees want from their place of employment. Participants discussed what factors are impacting employees’ decisions when considering new opportunities and how to improve employee retention.
Speakers:
Holly Carman
Compliance Manager, Qualifacts + Credible
Paul Duck Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS

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Top 6 Best Practices For Staying Human While Keeping Your Distance

One of the major developments of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the phenomenal growth of telehealth use, especially in behavioral health care. Telehealth became ubiquitous during the pandemic, and it is predicted that a large percentage of health care will continue via telehealth even after the public health emergency eases. A recent survey by Qualifacts and the National Council for Behavioral Health found that:

  • Before the pandemic, telehealth utilization in behavioral health care was relatively low, with only 2% of organizations providing 80% or more of their care virtually (See COVID-19 and Value-Based Reimbursement: What Do We Know? Where Will it Go?).
  • At the height of the pandemic, 60% of behavioral health organizations were providing 80% or more of their care virtually – due to policy changes reducing barriers to telehealth.
  • A majority of behavioral health care executives expect the increased utilization of virtual services to continue, with an estimated 40% to 60% of their overall services being provided via virtual platforms (See The New Role of Virtual Care in Behavioral Health).

Before 2020, health care was poised to start using more technology to allow consumers to make appointments, share records, and connect with their clinical professionals electronically. However, COVID-19 forced the rapid adoption of many of these services, particularly telehealth (See 21st Century Cures Act Paves The Way For Telehealth To Bloom During Pandemic). It turns out, consumers appreciate the ease of telehealth, especially because it allows them to avoid traffic and waiting rooms. Clinical professionals have also benefited from telehealth, finding that it allows them to see how their consumers are living day-to-day. Another advantage of telehealth is the ability to reduce barriers to care, such as time away from work and the stigma associated with seeking care (See What You Should Be Thinking About Now).

Mental health services were among the quickest health care specialty to switch to online treatment. With data collected between November 2020 through February 2021, 33% of all mental health appointments were conducted virtually. Primary care followed behind, holding 17% of its visits virtually. Pediatrics held 9% of its visits virtually, cardiology 7%, and OB/GYN visits were at 4%.

But despite the popularity and advantages of telehealth, clinical professionals must recognize that telehealth does not work for all consumers and all conditions. Regardless of age, many individuals are uncomfortable using technology, especially for sharing private health information. Also, not all consumers have access to high-speed internet, and therefore must resort to telephone appointments when an in-person visit is not an option. Above all, clinical professionals need to deliver the same personal, human interaction over the internet or the phone as they do in person. To ensure your clinical staff are maintaining a high quality of care without losing the personal touch while virtual, be sure to follow these key best practices:

  1. Establish a baseline for in-person versus virtual visits. Take a hard look at your service lines and consumer populations, as well as any payer requirements, when considering how often to require in-person versus virtual visits once the current pandemic ends. Even if your consumers love telehealth, make sure requirements are clear on how frequently they should be seeing consumers in-person — such as once every four telehealth visits — or whatever is determined to be best for your organization, clinical professionals, and payers. Advise your staff to be up front with consumers about the in-person/telehealth requirements from the office. Many people have anxiety as the world re-opens, and it is best to give people advanced notice of plans and expectations for future meetings.
  2. Acknowledge previous statements. Just like in an in-person visit, encourage your clinical professionals to spend a moment to chat with their consumers, perhaps following up and checking in on what you discussed in your last visit to make sure you both understand where you left off. This also works for clinical professionals as they move from topic to topic during consultations – spending a moment to reiterate an earlier conversation confirms you’re both on the same page. This helps the conversation stay on topic and helps your consumers build a connection with their clinical professionals, even if they have only ever met virtually.
  3. Listen to your consumers. As the world starts to re-open, advise your clinical professionals to check in with their consumers to see whether they would like to continue virtually, start meeting in-person again, or some combination of the two. Staff should realize it is also important to acknowledge any frustrations consumers may have regarding the platform or anything else in their lives. Even during a virtual appointment, it is obvious if someone is upset by the tone of their voice. Acknowledging these frustrations will demonstrate to consumers that their clinical professionals are present, even if they are not physically in the same room. This person-centered care approach will help your consumers feel more connected to their clinical professionals and actively involved in their treatment, which can positively impact health outcomes.
  4. Different policies for different diagnoses. As an office policy, it is also important to think about the consumer diagnoses your organization handles to see what works well digitally. Some treatment plans focusing on talk therapy may lend themselves naturally to telehealth, while others requiring injections or blood samples must be conducted in person. Think through the consumer population your organization treats and set some guidelines for your clinical professionals about how they should plan to handle future visits. For example, children being treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are typically weighed to make sure they are not losing weight due to appetite loss from medication. Set a policy for parents to weigh children at home or develop a schedule for in-person visits.
  5. Explain the technology. All these tech tools are great, so long as everyone can use them. As an organization, be prepared to offer some training to your staff on how to effectively use technologies. If consumers are intimidated by a patient portal, they may be too shy to continue with treatments. It is important for your staff to be respectful of consumer’s tech knowledge and offer guidance without being condescending. Depending on your practice, you could even designate someone in the office to handle tech support for all consumers. Whatever you decide–just make sure you have someone available and willing to reach the consumers where they are.
  6. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Even on a virtual visit, your staff must be able to talk with consumers and engage with them as they would in person. Encourage your staff to make simple small talk to start a conversation, such as commenting about the weather or compliment a new hair style. Even in a virtual world, consumers need to feel connected to clinical professionals, so it is important to show attention to the consumer’s person. Teach your staff basic techniques to recenter and engage again with the conversation should their focus wane briefly.

As the world and industry change and we approach the next normal, provider organizations must embrace the fact that virtual care is here to stay. Incorporating a person-centered approach to care is incredibly important during these times when most of our care is being delivered virtually. To learn more about person-centered care and how to keep your consumers actively engaged in their own health care, view this recent archived webinar, A Stable Connection Should Mean More Than Just a Strong Wi-Fi Signal: How to Keep Care Connections Personal in a Virtual World.

The full text of “athenahealth Creates Online Telehealth Insights Dashboard to Help Practices Benchmark Their Performance and Find Opportunities to Better Meet Provider and Patient Needs” was published March 9, 2021, by athenahealth, Inc. A free copy of this and access to the Telehealth Insights Dashboard are available online at https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210309005235/en/athenahealth-Creates-Online-Telehealth-Insights-Dashboard-to-Help-Practices-Benchmark-Their-Performance-and-Find-Opportunities-to-Better-Meet-Provider-and-Patient-Needs (accessed July 23, 2021).
The full text of “Help patients adjust to telehealth by remembering the human touch” was published June 23, 2020, by the American Medical Association. A free copy is available online at https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/digital/help-patients-adjust-telehealth-remembering-human-touch (accessed July 12, 2021).

Don’t Leave Money On The Table: How The Right Technology Can Improve Your VBR Success

Originally presented on May 26th, 2021

Value-based care is here! If you haven’t started thinking about what it is you need to compete in a value-based environment, now is the time to start. With the rise in value-based care contracts and utilization of alternative payment models, provider organizations are challenged with doing the research and homework to get prepared for these new ways of managing care.

Hear an update on where we are with value-based care from OPEN MINDS Senior Associate, Ken Carr, as well as a firsthand case study from Capital Area Human Services (CAHS) on their journey to value-based care. CAHS Director of Business Development, Karla Lee Muzik, and Program Manager, John Nosacka, will showcase how their organization discovered they had been losing money by not having the right technology and how they began to remedy the problem.

During this session, attendees will:

  • Understand the current state of value-based care
  • Discover how to tell if they too are losing money with the wrong tools and technology
  • Hear a real-life case study from one provider organization who was losing money by not having the right tools to succeed with value-based contracting

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Making Strategy Work – Mission, Growth, & Sustainability

Free web forum, sponsored by Qualifacts + Credible and OPEN MINDS

Michael Porter stated that strategy was really just answering the two most basic questions of an organization: Who do we serve and how do we serve them? While there is elegant simplicity in that phrasing, planned strategic change is a delicate balancing act of managing the present and the future in domains of finance, customer service, and internal efficiency and doing so without losing the commitment of board or staff. Its no wonder that McKinsey studies have shown that as high as 70% of these change efforts fail – even pre-COVID.  The pandemic has doubled the stakes and speed of the game. Margins are thinner, competitors are stronger and bigger, change is more urgent, and staff we need to lead this charge are tired.

Together in this discussion we will explore the following issues:

  • How can I truly and honestly self-assess my organizations strengths and needs?
  • How can we pierce the fog of chaos and create a vision for the community that is engaging, efficient, and effective?
  • Can we still sell that vision? Will old communication styles still succeed?
  • What new day to day metrics and management habits can help in balancing the present and future?

Data-Driven Care: Using Population Health & High-Utilizer Data

Mental health providers and the organizations they support have more information at their fingertips than ever before. This information, largely known as population health data, allows provider organizations to examine the overall health of the populations they serve, and to observe any trends among their consumers, particularly those who use services frequently. Officially, population health data is defined as information related to the health outcomes of specific groups of people, communities, or ethnic groups (See Technology & Reporting Requirements For Population Health Management: Preparing For Value-Based Reimbursement).

With the advent of electronic health records (EHR), it is now easy for provider organizations of any size to run reports to glean basic information about their practice using common identifiers such as billing codes, medical diagnoses, medications prescribed, time to referral, and next scheduled appointments. Previously, this information was likely only found on paper and rarely stored in one place – much less stored in a way you could run a report to use the information.


“We were so excited just to have the advanced search feature,” said Bob Puckett, Director of Business Operations for Families, Inc. Counseling Services on their switch to a new EHR in 2010. Headquartered in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Families Inc. has 11 locations in northern Arkansas and has been providing mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults since 2000.  “Then we moved to the custom ad hoc feature [in our EHR] where we could actually do a little bit more and thought, ‘Wow. This is awesome.’ And then we moved into business intelligence, and the system keeps taking it up a notch.”

For many providers, the challenge now is not collecting the data, but figuring out what specific data to look at and how to make business sense of all the information collected. In Puckett’s case, they started with an initial focus on compliance and a few key dates (referral date, treatment planning date, and medical evaluation date), narrowing in on about 10 key data points.

“[Our EHR] has all these report functions, but how, as an organization, do I look at that?” Puckett said. Families Inc. staff reached out to analysts with Qualifacts + Credible, their EHR provider, who helped them focus on 10 key indicators, out of more than a 100, to get started. “There’s just so much more [information] than you ever thought you could imagine. How do you narrow it down to what’s important and what’s not?”

Their initial focus on compliance reports gave Families, Inc. a starting point to use with their clinicians and therapists without overwhelming them with stacks of data. Over time, they talked with their providers for feedback on what else could make the report more useful. They found small ways to tweak the formatting, such as replacing a separate column with an icon so that the report was more interesting visually than just a wall of numbers or words. The team also found that using abbreviations for certain data points and pop-up messages helped keep their reports interesting and useful, but not overwhelming.

Families, Inc. was also lucky to have the guidance of an on-staff clinician with a talent in HTML who was able to dig deeper into their health record system and make customizations to benefit the providers and consumers. This staff member was able to help Puckett and his colleagues look at all the information collected and find ways to make it more user friendly. “There are still rows and columns and trying to dig through 60 rows of data trying to find a date that expired [was exhausting]”, said Puckett. To improve the experience, they experimented with highlighting dates in red to show they had expired and yellow to indicate they were going to expire in the next 30 days.       


Using these general data points can help providers learn a lot about the people they serve. For example, Anthem used claims data from the 27 million people they serve to create a report on the state of the nation’s mental health (See State of the Nation’s Mental Health). In their analysis, they discovered that more adult Anthem members were diagnosed and treated for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2020 compared to 2019. They also found that use of medications to treat depression among this population rose in 2020 (See Anthem Review Of 2020 Claims Data Finds Decline In Mental Health Treatment Rates).


While Anthem has huge patient numbers to analyze, EHR data makes it possible for smaller organizations with fewer patients to look at their patient population, identify trends, and share their results with others—including publishing in medical journals and organizational newsletters. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota used their EHR data to identify current e-cigarette users to targets for smoking cessation programs – ultimately identifying 1,000 current e-cigarette users out of their almost 600,000 consumers (See Improved Documentation of Electronic Cigarette Use in an Electronic Health Record). The researchers also identified the needed to adjust their EHR forms to be more specific about tobacco use and include all types of tobacco, including e-cigarettes. Previously, this information was only recorded as “tobacco use” without specifying between cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or e-cigarettes.

“These documentation efforts are not consistent across clinical practices, nor systematically tracked by the health system,” the researchers said. “Reliable population health data could bolster research efforts to generate evidence addressing gaps in our understanding of trends in e-cigarette use by consumers and their overall impact on health.” The researchers add this additional information is critical as many providers had no idea of their consumers’ e-cigarette use and how it may be impacting other areas of a consumer’s health.


OPEN MINDS Senior Associate, Carol Clayton, Ph.D. recommends acquiring an electronic health record as the first, and most important, step to tracking population health data (See Data-Driven Decision-Making For The Post Pandemic Market). For providers who have an EHR, the first step should be examining what fields are already digitized within the EHR, and can be easily sorted (such as numbers, words, or billing codes) — avoiding information that has to be opened and read, such as .pdf copies of consumer records.  


“As provider organizations plan for sustainability in the ‘next normal,’ having a data-informed strategy is more important than ever before,” said Monica E. Oss, CEO of OPEN MINDS (See Data, Data Everywhere But Little Action). “Data is critical for two reasons—to demonstrate clinical outcomes and adopt population health approaches that payers are looking for under value-based models, and to grow market share and revenue.”

A Stable Connection Should Mean More Than Just a Strong Wi-Fi Signal: How to Keep Care Connections Personal in a Virtual World

Originally presented on 7/13/21

With the shift to virtual meetings and hybrid models to provide care to clients and consumers, the feeling that we’ve lost the connection of face-to-face interactions is real. Virtual fatigue leaves us all longing for the “human touch,” but telehealth and other developing forms of digital evaluation and treatment is here to stay. Where and how do we find balance with when it comes to personalized care?

In this virtual webinar we:
1) Reviewed models where the client-centric focus is the hallmark,
2) Explored components of what makes programs like the CCBHC model successful to client engagement (and empowerment!) to our ever-growing interoperable landscape.

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