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      EHR and Telehealth Prove Invaluable to CCBHC's During Pandemic and Beyond

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      If Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHC's) have gained nothing else from this lingering coronavirus pandemic, they’ve at least learned these four things – that an integrated EHR and telehealth system can increase their chances for continuity of patient care, SAMHSA funding, CCBHC licensure, and CCBHC certification. 

      Pandemic Forced CCBHC's to Find Better, Lasting Solutions

      The pandemic brought with it an increase in mental health and substance abuse disorders during a time when it was also thwarting access to in-person therapy, medication, or outpatient support from Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.

      This sequence of events proved alarming, but not without solutions.

      To survive the initial pandemic surge, CCBHCs relied heavily on integrated EHR and telehealth technology after centers were forced to close brick-and-mortar locations during statewide ‘shelter in place’ orders. For some, this meant adopting new technology. For others, it meant an upgrade to what they already had. Either way, it proved a huge and welcome relief to CCBHC providers and their patients -- and with the likelihood that there will be no turning back even after the pandemic. 

      Telehealth platforms helped SUD patients avoid interruptions in care, ease documentation, more easily communicate with care providers and connect with medication-assisted therapy (MAT) providers. Moreover, EHRs that could be accessed through cloud-based servers made documentation and data-sharing easier for clinicians who were forced to work from home.
      Not all CCBHCs, however, share the same success.

      This was especially true of CCBHCs that struggled to serve patients because their technology was outdated and did little beyond the minimum of addressing quality reporting requirements: transmitting data to state registries for compliance – or serving as a funnel for basic, routine functions such as intake information and e-prescribing.

      Follow the Money: Much to be Gained from Grants

      The potential value of advanced technology was brought to light this year when the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced its plans to grant 74 CCBHCs up to $149,000,000 for expanded programs that would ease the nation’s ongoing mental health crisis.

      The CCBHC grants, as well as 2021 grants to mental health organizations, are significant for reasons that include:

      1. SAMSHA is demonstrating its belief that CCBHCs are an essential resource for Americans who suffer from substance-use disorders (SUDs).
      2. The grant program emphasizes the agency’s belief that access to communications technology, such as EHRs and telehealth, can expand support to patients’ ongoing treatment and recovery needs.

      “In order to be eligible for certification and re-certification, CCBHCs must do more — and so must their technology,” says Roland Therriault, president of InSync Healthcare Solutions.

      In particular, the CCBHC Expansion Grant program emphasizes the need for applicants to provide continued access into the indefinite future, “including 24/7 crisis intervention services for individuals with serious mental illness, or substance-use disorders … including opioid disorders.”

      "Without the right infrastructure in place," says Therriault, "this task is made harder."

      Shopping for EHR? A Checklist for CCBHC's

      Most legacy IT health systems were not designed with the needs of CCBHC patients or the ideals of collaboration at top of mind. Therefore, when evaluating technology upgrades and future implementations, CCBHC administrators should look at four things:

      1. CCBHC-tailored workflows: Technology should support workflows, not detract from them. For example, an EHR should be configurable to agency workflows. Templates should support quality metrics and ongoing reporting requirements, and providers should be able to easily navigate screens and menus and meet electronic medication administration record (eMAR) requirements.

      2. Support for collaboration: CCBHCs, by design, provide integrated services to individuals and families. Technology that helps to facilitate communication between primary-care physicians and behavioral health providers can save hours of back-and-forth calling and stress. Case in point: If physicians aren’t aware that patients are being treated for opioid dependency, they might unintentionally prescribe oxycodone after surgery. This move could be life-threatening when it triggers a dormant addiction.

        How important is collaboration inpatient care? A Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Google Cloud last year emphasized the need to tear down data siloes that for years have prevented providers from understanding their patients' full health history. For example:
        •  86% think better data interoperability would significantly cut time to diagnosis
        •  95% say increased data interoperability will improve patient outcomes
        •  96% agree that easier access to critical data can save lives
      3. Patient engagement: Virtual care is here to stay, and as many CCBHCs are just beginning to understand telehealth’s potential, they should consider a hybrid care approach that incorporates both in-person and virtual care. When evaluating any platform, CCBHCs should ask themselves: Is this going to keep our patients and case managers connected? Is this going to ease documentation strains so providers can be more present with patients?
      4. Vendor support: Because the healthcare industry is constantly in flux, it helps to work with a vendor that can make adjustments on demand and ensure their EHR software supports current and future regulations. It also helps to work with a vendor that can help a CCBHC scale its platform as the needs of its practice evolve or change — for example, through the incorporation of new programs and services.

        The ability of an EHR system to support growth was identified as the No. 1 reason for implementing EHR, according to current survey results from Software Path, which compares various software companies. The top reasons for implementing EHR, according to the 2021 report, include:
        •  35.45%: Support growth
        •  21.82%: Greater functionality
        •  18.18%: Increase efficiency
        •  11.82%: Poor support from current vendor
        • 5.45%: Replace outdated legacy
        •  3.64%: Consolidate disparate systems
        •  3.64%: Better support for reporting/BI

      Investment in EHR Is an Investment in Your Future

      When investing in technology, it's advisable to consider not just what you need today but whether that EHR will be adaptable to the growth and evolution of your own CCBHC. Choosing the right systems now will provide the foundation for high-quality, patient-centered care — and make a measurable difference in the lives of both CCBHCs and their patients for years to come.

      schedule a demo with insync healthcare solutionsAs a leader in mental health EHR software that is designed specifically for behavioral health practices, InSync offers everything from group scheduling and group notes to telehealth, e-Prescribing, eMAR, and custom forms.

      For a closer look at how our interoperable, mobile-friendly and configurable software system can increase efficiencies and workflows in your mental health practice, schedule a demo now with one of our experts. We're happy to answer questions and explain how we can tailor our system to meet your needs while saving you time and money. 

      References

      Google Cloud: Physicians recognize the importance of having the right information at the right time

      Software Path: 2021 EHR Software Report

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