Managing a Growing Mental Health Practice
May 4, 2017
Manage your schedule (as well as your reputation) with a growing mental health client base
A private mental health practice holds many of the same issues other small businesses hold. While smaller organizations have more direct control over the quality of the customer experience, larger practices tend to have increased complication. Where it used to be easy to maintain a certain standard of quality, business owners have to account for increasingly complex logistics, and the private mental health practice is no different.
Elevated Patient Experience
In the case of private mental health practices, it is important to consider how the overall patient experience can slip as the result of growth—whether the practice takes on a significantly larger caseload than when it was first founded or if it encounters the challenges that naturally accompany steady growth over a long period of time. It isn’t normally the quality of care itself that becomes compromised, so much as all of the peripheral tasks and workflows that support it.
If a practice is either paper based or has a very basic EHR system, critical support tasks such as scheduling, billing, intakes, screenings, and audit preparation become exacerbated by volume. Larger caseloads mean clinicians and staff spend more time chasing down paperwork and records, filling out the same demographic information in multiple fields and forms, and reconciling several deadline-sensitive processes set in motion at different stages for different patients (e.g. scheduling, billing, documentation). The result is more time and more effort, and, most importantly perhaps, a higher risk for human error. Patients can grow frustrated if calls aren’t returned, appointment reminders are neglected, or mental health scheduling and billing are botched. This can turn into bad press for the practice in the age of social media and Yelp, and negative feedback, more often than not, pertains to logistical shortfalls and not care itself.
If a private practice is serious about maintaining the same degree of logistical quality as it grows, all of the ways in which software automation is beneficial need to be considered. An efficient EHR solution keeps administrative work running smoothly. In fact, nearly all of administrative workflows are either vastly improved or handled entirely by software automation.
An EHR system that captures patient data will reduce or even eliminate the need to rewrite patient demographics, billable services, or insurance information across several form factors. The completion of certain tasks will set others in motion, improving efficiency. For example, in mental health scheduling, registering a patient can initiate notifications for appointment reminders and documentation deadlines, depending on the particular software solution. Practice staff encounter such notifications in the EHR, instead of needing to pour over records, write sticky notes, or jot things down on a calendar.
Efficient Billing Cycles
Billing is also very important. Practices using an EHR consistently have lower rejection rates when compared to those that use paper. Mistakes are less likely to occur the more the practice can remove the fallible human element from the process. Fewer rejections means more payments received, timely and consistently. Practices should also be mindful of how an EHR can create new value in ways that weren’t possible previously. Improved accessibility to records, robust reporting systems, and data analysis enable the acquisition of additional contracts and make audits far less disruptive to practice productivity.
For growing private behavioral health practices, maintaining quality in mental health scheduling and other key logistics isn’t only essential in the continued provision of quality care, there is also a lot of lost potential value with an infrastructure that can’t keep up with the practice’s growth. Providing quality behavioral health care should always be at the forefront of the practice owner’s mind, but leveraging EHR software to improve logistics and create value for the practice is also an important consideration.
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