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Improving Behavioral Health Outcomes
4 MIN READ

How EHRs Drive Positive Behavioral Health Outcomes

Improving outcomes in behavioral health comes down to data collection. 

The ways in which an EHR can collect and interact with that data has a direct impact on a provider’s capacity to improve both patient and provider outcomes.

Of course, patient outcomes and provider outcomes are quite different, but powerful EHRs are able to accommodate both sides.

We’ll explore the software solutions that contribute to improved treatment outcomes for patients and improved operational outcomes for providers.

Behavioral Health Software that Improves Patient Outcomes

Patient outcomes occur at the treatment level. An outcome can be virtually any measurable result in the care environment.

In mental health treatment, for example, a positive outcome can be an improved score on an assessment like the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), which measures anxiety symptoms.

Say the patient completed the assessment on Monday and then again on Friday. If their score reflects fewer anxiety symptoms on Friday than it did on Monday, then you have an improved patient outcome.

First and foremost, it’s a positive outcome because the patient is feeling less anxious.

But it’s also a positive outcome in a statistical sense. The patient produced a lower anxiety rating, which is numerical proof of a patient’s improved condition.

More important, though, is the record of a patient’s progress that is created by recording and reporting on that treatment data. 

The more data an organization can collect, the more context they have to deliver the best possible treatment to each patient.

Over time, a provider will gain access to a thorough history of recorded data about the patient to identify the most effective treatment approaches for them. 

Let’s circle back to the BAI example for one final moment.

When the patient reports a lower anxiety score, their provider can then refer to the patient’s chart to review other treatment progress. From there, they can search for  any correlations that led to the positive outcome.

Maybe the patient got a full night’s rest the night before they reported a lower anxiety score. Or they found out they passed the class they were worried about failing all semester. 

Whatever the correlation may be, having as much data to work with as possible makes finding those correlations easier. Thus, treatment decisions are informed ones, and treatment approaches can be consistently refined.

So, the question becomes: how do providers track patient data?

The answer, of course, is dynamic reporting features.

Ideally, an EHR empowers providers to report on every single data point in the system. One measurement can be extremely relevant to one patient’s care and have no impact on another. 

In order to collect any and all data, an EHR must offer a variety of comprehensive documentation. These include assessments like the BAI, surveys, and forms, as well as progress notes and treatment plans. 

In an enterprise system, any results from any documentation auto-populate on the patient’s chart, creating a living record of their condition. In this way, the patient chart can become a hub of information on each patient that can be leveraged to support their care.

Traditionally, most data collection occurred at the practice. More recently, and especially after COVID-19, providers have had to rely on remote data collection to maintain their full picture of their patients.

Fortunately, most modern platforms allow for thorough patient engagement via a patient portal. Administering any necessary documentation for the patient to remotely report on their condition shouldn’t be an issue for powerful EHRs.

In a system that lacks patient engagement capabilities, though, preserving the quality of care to pre-pandemic standards can be a challenge.

As a software company that serves the behavioral health communities, we know that our clients’ patients need more support than ever during the pandemic. COVID-19 has made life especially difficult for those struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse issues.

That’s why it’s so important for behavioral health software to offer a comprehensive virtual care environment. That includes collecting data virtually so that there’s no dip in the thoroughness of patient care. This in turn includes providing patients with an intuitive portal experience in how they can report symptoms, communicate with their provider, and complete assessments.

Improving Provider Outcomes with Behavioral Health Software

On the staff side, data collection is still the name of the game – the relevant data is just different.

One of the best ways providers can improve outcomes on an organizational level is by measuring staff productivity and performance. From an oversight perspective, it’s a critical feature for identifying areas that need improvement.

Consider the benefit for a manager or supervisor being able to report on their staff’s documentation breakdown. Some useful measurements here would be how long it takes individual users to complete documentation, or how late users are on documentation over time.

From there, a manager can intervene where there is lacking performance.

Another important oversight tool that can directly impact provider outcomes is the ability to track its compliance progress.

This is especially helpful in behavioral health treatment, where there’s a wide variety of guidelines to comply with.

Whether state billing guidelines or JCAHO and CARF accreditation standards, an EHR should be able to record any necessary compliance measurements. That way, an organization can monitor its adherence to the necessary standards and prepare for audits accordingly.

From this type of data, a provider can make an informed decision about operational improvements that are backed up by data.

For example, maybe the data shows a recent increase in the average time it’s taking clinicians to complete documentation, which risks becoming a compliance and a billing issue.

However, when the supervisor looks a little deeper, they see that each clinician has a huge caseload, which is responsible for the slower documentation turnaround. 

With that data, the organization can come to the informed conclusion that they need to hire more staff to accommodate the full caseload.

Or, maybe the clinicians all have modest caseloads while their performance is getting sloppy or slow.

With that data the organization knows they don’t need more clinicians to shoulder the work. Instead, maybe they implement updated training protocols because the data shows that they’re not using their software tools properly.

EHR Tools that Drive Positive Outcomes

We hope you have a better idea of how an organization can leverage data to improve treatment processes and sustain operational success.

As a software company, data is very important to us. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the software tools that make that data collection possible, check out our deep dive on the most critical EHR outcomes tools for behavioral health software.