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In our May 8, 2024 Blog, we discussed strategies for optimizing electronic health records (EHRs) specifically for psychiatric hospitals and community behavioral health providers. As a follow-up, this blog focuses on the essential factors to consider when selecting an Electronic Health Record that aligns with the unique needs of your organization. This guide will help ensure that your EHR choice supports efficient workflows, enhances patient care, and meets accreditation and regulatory standards.

Enhancements and Legislative Efforts in Behavioral Health EHR Adoption

The use of electronic health records (EHRs) has significantly enhanced behavioral health care by improving patient care, safety, coordination, and management of patient records. EHRs streamline compliance with accreditation and regulatory requirements, facilitate data analysis and reporting, boost patient engagement, integrate with other health systems, and support telehealth services. Despite these benefits, behavioral health providers were excluded from the HITECH Act of 2009 funding, leading to outdated IT infrastructure that hampers care delivery, interoperability, and the adoption of modern health IT functions such as telehealth, clinical decision support, and AI implementation.

Recent legislative efforts aim to address these gaps. The “Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act,” introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Rob Portman, seeks to extend federal incentives for EHR adoption to behavioral health providers (Healthcare IT News)​​. Additionally, the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act, introduced by Representatives Doris Matsui and Bill Johnson and Senators Markwayne Mullin and Catherine Cortez Masto, proposes $20 million annually from 2025 to 2029 to promote the adoption and interoperability of certified health IT in behavioral health settings. These initiatives are crucial to modernizing behavioral health IT and enhancing care for patients​. Let your Senators and Representatives know that you support these legislative efforts. 

How to Select an Electronic Health Record for Behavioral Health Organizations

Selecting an electronic health record system and vendor is a crucial decision for any healthcare organization. Here are some tips to guide you through the selection process:

Assess Your Needs

Before diving into vendor options, thoroughly assess your organization’s needs, workflows, and goals. Consider factors such as the size of your practice, specialties you serve, accreditation and regulatory requirements, integration with existing systems, and budget constraints.

Ease of Use and Interface Design

Choose an EHR system with an intuitive interface and user-friendly design. The system should streamline workflows, minimize documentation burden, and enhance overall efficiency. Ask how the system supports accreditation and regulatory compliance. Conduct demos or trials to evaluate the ease of use from both clinical and administrative perspectives.

Customization and Flexibility

Look for an EHR that offers customization options to adapt to your organization’s unique requirements. The ability to tailor templates, forms, and workflows ensures that the system aligns with your clinical processes, preferences, accreditation, and regulatory compliance.


Choose an EHR that supports seamless data exchange and interoperability with other systems and healthcare providers. Compatibility with Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) (what is HIE/Health adherence to interoperability standards facilitate continuity of care, care coordination, and data sharing across different healthcare settings.

Scalability and Growth Potential

Consider the scalability of the EHR system to accommodate the evolving needs of your organization as it grows or undergoes changes. Ensure that the vendor offers scalable solutions and upgrades to support future expansion and technological advancements.

Data Security and Compliance

Prioritize data security and compliance with regulatory standards such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Verify that the EHR system employs robust security measures. This includes encryption protocols, access controls, and regular updates to protect patient information and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.

Vendor Reputation and Support

Research the reputation and track record of EHR vendors in the healthcare industry. Look for vendors with a proven history of reliability, customer satisfaction, and ongoing support. Consider factors such as responsiveness to inquiries, availability of technical support, training resources, and long-term partnership opportunities. Ask for a full client list and seek references from a sample of clients. 

Cost and Value

Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including upfront expenses, implementation fees, ongoing maintenance costs, and potential hidden charges. Compare pricing models, subscription plans, and payment options to determine the best value for your organization’s budget and requirements. Consider factors such as return on investment (ROI), efficiency gains, and potential revenue opportunities associated with the EHR system.

User Feedback and References

Seek feedback from current users or request references from the vendor to gain insights into their experiences with the EHR system and vendor services. Learning from others’ experiences can provide valuable perspectives and help you make informed decisions.

Implementation Plan and Training

Ensure that the vendor offers comprehensive implementation support, including project management, data migration, software configuration, and staff training. A well-defined implementation plan, coupled with ongoing training and support, is essential for a successful transition to the new EHR system and maximizing user adoption. By carefully considering these tips and conducting thorough research, you can confidently select an EHR system and vendor that align with your organization’s needs, goals, and values, ultimately enhancing the quality of care and patient outcomes. Consider timing new EHR implementation or updates with preparation for initial or triennial accreditation or regulatory surveys. These are ideal times to incorporate changes to the EHR to support compliance and successful surveys.

Barrins and Associates

Whether you are accredited by TJC, DNV, CHIQ, ACHC, CARF, or  COA, Barrins can assist your organization to select an EHR to meet the unique needs of the population you serve. We also share our resources on best practices and strategies for efficiently and effectively developing and implementing user-friendly workflows to maximize the adaptability and effectiveness of your selected EHR system. 

Barrins & Associates – “Empowering You with Cutting-Edge Technology: Streamlined Documentation and Compliance”