We might as well get started on the right foot…
When a project begins we do our best to be transparent about what needs to be done. At its heart, a project can be defined in simple terms: • Kick-off • Analysis • Design • Implementation • Go Live • Fine Tuning & Maintenance
The Kick-off tends to be a description of what we’re all doing as a project team, how we’ll do it in general terms, and what management expectations are so we can achieve them. Hopefully each team member will receive some of the value that comes out of the project.
This is all fine and dandy; additionally, it’s good to pay attention to some of the human aspects involved in working with a team. Sometimes the personalities we work with are just as important as all the other aspects of the project combined because these personalities shape the project. If we get off on the wrong foot and people act like people will, copping resentments, jumping to conclusions and hiding their secret agendas, man, are we in for a wild ride. These sorts of human behaviors can derail a project quickly and efficiently or drag it on into a miserable experience.
How do we avoid these behaviors? We try our best, and in the end, who knows? The proof is in the pudding. Here are some ramblings and a plan I use to help form a group of individuals into a team.
Most of the old hands at running projects have been battered by the consequences of a lack of transparency. If the entire team is not forthcoming about details, like a key software user being just plain resistant to change or a manager not seeing enough value in what we’re doing for a big enough payoff, the project could be doomed to fail. Projects are a lot of work, and it’s good to know they will be worth the effort. Sometimes, if difficulties arise and a project fails, management will decide to try to implement the software again a couple years later. If the same people are involved and their issue is not resolved up front, trouble re-surfaces.
It’s good to get to know the people on the team and their issues early in the project and face those issues in a transparent manner with the rest of the team; no blame, no subterfuge, just honesty. There are a number of ways to do this, and a guided conversation has been effective for me in the past…perhaps not every time, but it sure breaks the ice and hopefully team members know what they have to say is being heard. I like to use an interactive diagram that lists key points like these:
• Restate the Goals and Objectives This helps get everybody on the same page. These are team goals. Sure, individual members will have goals that should be heard and accounted for and some of those will be added to the initial list.
• Initial Observations These could be about anything…maybe somebody has a better idea than one that’s been stated as part of the team’s focus.
• Value Statement Get a handle on the value that will come out of the project and get it down on paper or in some electronic document like a project plan; team members will likely see different value points depending on their perspective. This can be the beginning of defining a payoff for each team member.
• Benefits Talk about the benefits of the project…after all somebody should be getting something good out of all this work. I try to get folks to talk about the payoff a lot.
• Concerns What could go wrong? Where are the stumbling blocks? There are a thousand questions that could be asked about concerns. A bit of advice, though, discussions about concerns can swing into a negative vein, so it’s usually good to ask for solutions to the concerns.
• Next Steps In addition to the project plan, add in some next steps that are a result of this exercise that could be beneficial to the outcome of the project. Oh, and that helps fine tune the Project Plan, which we’ll discuss another time.
The point of this exercise, I think, is to encourage team members to speak up, offer solutions, and if their solution is accepted – Yay! If their solution is not accepted – Eh.
If team members agree on most of the topics above, they’re likely to participate in the Next Steps with some enthusiasm, and the less-than-stellar solutions have a tendency to fall a bit flat, even with the person who brought it up. The key is to briskly complete the current objective and move to the next step until we meet the goal. Perhaps the process described above helps us start out on the right foot.
That makes me wonder about that old saying…what if you’re left-footed?Read more →
Oh boy. Another gizmo for the Electronic Health Record (EHR).
Actually, I like digital gizmos, especially when they have a practical application. At first glance, the Digital Pen in use with Next Step Solutions has a fit in the Behavioral Health Electronic Health Record landscape(EHR).
Next Step is interesting because variations of the software serve small private practices for one to three professionals, mental health clinics, and even state psychiatric hospitals. They even serve physical therapy and long term care facilities. This sort of variation on a theme can be a great strategy to grow a software business and increase product’s flexibility, which can not only give the programming team a workout but also discover a market that was previously not discovered valuable. This diversity of products can also be tough to support if the manufacturer strays too far from the foundation of the software. That said, when I first got into this business the company and software product I worked with served mental health departments, occupational therapists, even chiropractors, and eventually methadone clinics…we managed just fine.
In particular, Next Step’s (EHR) is worth a look by Mental Health Professionals in private practice and small offices. Most of the inquiries I receive about software are from professionals in these small environments looking for EHR options. And the presence of their Digital Pen functionality is intriguing. If it’s not in use in these smaller environments, I’d bet it soon will be.
The website says the Digital Pen is in play for Long Term Care facilities, but I talked with the folks at Next Step, and they indicate some facilities in Florida Mental Health treatment are successfully using the product…It’s hearsay, but yup, that’s what I heard.
It’s a forms-based approach to the EHR, and some professionals thrive with that approach, making it work in a world that places high value on a process-driven, workflow attentive method of doing business. Forms can still gather the same information, and depending on the software design, can incorporate previously gathered information as well as pass it along to other aspects of the EHR. As long as the implementation of the software follows workflow wisdom, the value of the EHR using data that’s entered one time is still captured.
It’s a fact of life that more than a few professionals in the business of mental health and addictions treatment have an aversion to computers. If there has to be a record, they prefer paper. Whether it’s fear-based, or a belief computers are impersonal or just a dislike of typing, reasons are less important than the solution: they prefer paper.
The Digital Pen is a panacea for these folks.
Mechanically, the professional can sit with the consumer and fill out the paper form they are used to, and a tiny camera in the pen records what’s written for later upload to the computer. It’s that simple. For professionals who’ve been filling out forms on paper, then struggling to enter the data into the computer, step two is replaced with a simple upload of data.
Reducing this technology to its simplest level, the Digital Pen records the coordinates on the paper form where the professional checks a box, enters a date or writes a character then the coordinates are sent to the computer to complete the document in electronic form.
One key aspect of this process deserves a note: In order to upload the pen’s recorded form to the computer, there needs to be an electronic version of the form in the computer in the first place, and the way it gets there is by using the software’s development tools. This means you need somebody on staff to use the software’s form designer features, or to hire somebody like yours truly to maintain and extend the forms library…it’s usually a minor effort or expense, and nevertheless, something to remember.
In the end run, the Digital Pen tackles a reality that a lot of us software professionals can sometimes ignore. A significant number of professionals avoid the EHR, and the reasons are personal. The Digital Pen might be a solution to bring them into this brave new world of electronic records.Read more →
The incredible shrinking computers have invaded!
Computers are everywhere, and we use them without even thinking about it. I bought a new smart phone recently, and it came in three sizes, small, medium and large. Microchip technology has come into play in physical health care. Tablet computers are everywhere. I shudder to think how many small computers are in a new car, appliances, even alarm clocks. But where’s the value in Mental Health and Addictions Treatment?
Is smaller really better?
Let’s go back to that smart phone. Professionals can receive automated Emails on their smart phone from their Electronic Health Record (EHR) telling them to log into their system to find out which patient needs help NOW. In a world where a consumer with a problem can wait weeks instead of hours for an appointment with a mental health professional, the value of this sort of instant attention-grabber is obvious. You can get that on the small model smart phone, and for that purpose, smaller is better.
I manage my calendar on my smart phone. For a professional who wants to do the same, the EHR can send a calendar event that’s been scrubbed clean of patient information; this integrates the updated professional staff scheduling information on the smart phone with the EHR. The calendar works for me on my medium size phone, but I wouldn’t want to try this on a smaller phone with my clumsy fingers.
I read a lot. I use Kindle software on the medium size phone and it’s OK, not fabulous. I take a lot of photos and they display OK, but quite tiny. This feature functionality would be better on the large sized phone (which doesn’t fit in my pocket well) or fantastic on a tablet computer (which feels like lugging too much around and could get “lost” on the New York subway).
I recently accessed a customer’s EHR on my medium size phone to sign a document…it worked, but not very well. For running an EHR in the field, I wouldn’t want anything smaller than the mini-tablet.
The coolest small thing to come down the pike in the past decade or so is the advances in microchip nanotechnology, and I recently received an article discussing how this marvel can help diagnose Type-1 diabetes. What if mental health and addictions could use the same technology?
Misdiagnosis of schizophrenia as something like Asperger’s Syndrome or depression or bipolar disorder, while probably not common, does happen…what if nanotechnology could be employed to validate diagnosis? We already know that chemical changes in the brain accompany disorders like schizophrenia; a device for use in the field to test blood or saliva that provides proof of diagnosis could help professionals deliver better care to consumers.
There are a number of smart phone apps available to monitor moods and activities, and these are promoting the use of smaller devices to accomplish a mental health goal. This technology is currently in play, so what can we expect in the future? Perhaps we’ll see a watch that monitors chemicals in our sweat and triggers an alarm when moods or physical cues indicate the onset of certain behaviors.
Every so often we see a new “cure” for addiction surface. How about using nanotechnology to silence DARPP-32, the brain protein that facilitates addictive behaviors. It’s being discussed and could hapen
The point of using technology like this and the EHR in mental health and addictions is to deliver improved diagnosis, treatment, documentation and outcomes to treatment, and all this technology is getting smaller and more portable.
Think small.Read more →
I’m no professional, but I’d say prioritizing can make or break us in mental health and addictions treatment.
OK, so my work as an Electronic Health Record (EHR) Consultant has a very professional aspect, but I’m not a mental health and addictions treatment professional. We all have priorities, but it seems to me that the mental health and addictions treatment professionals’ priorities are likely to be based on criticality and probably carry more weight in the grand scheme of things than an EHR Consultant’s.
Let’s look at a day in the life of a sample mental health clinic. Our sample professional can be faced with priority list of tough choices about a whole caseload of consumers, and in the moment talking with a consumer who is experiencing suicidal ideation; this case creates its own ever-changing list of priorities. Simultaneously, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the organization has a stake in our sample professional’s priorities for the day. The CFO’s priority is in making sure the professional’s work gets paid for with the highest rate of return. Yet another item in this day would be passing muster with audits in order to keep the money once treatment has been delivered and the bill paid to that professional, a situation that deserves its own spot high on the priority list. Our sample professional is still concerned with her consumer, whose welfare remains the top priority, however, after that she will likely cooperate to assure the other two priorities are met. The CFO and auditor both maintain their number one priorities, too, which can seem like a conflict.
So, all the priorities are on each other’s lists, it’s a matter of perspective as to which item floats to the top. In the end, the entire team involved in this day-in-the-life description needs to agree on one set of priorities…what comes first and how much energy should be devoted to getting each item on each list of priorities done.
When it comes to the EHR implementation, these daily scenarios need to be weighed for organization-wide importance and ordered realistically on the organization-wide list. Without team cooperation, what’s best for the entire organization may fall to the wayside and priorities may change enough to run out of budget before the EHR is fully implemented. A team needs to be forged; flexible and intent on doing the most for the organization with the available budget. Some items will be left off the list because money tends to run short before work.
The mission of the EHR is to document consumer treatment, bill for it and account for where the money goes; the mission of an EHR implementation project manager is to configure, train, comment, cajole and lead all these people to a happy consolidation of priorities that will satisfy them all in the end – at least mostly. It’s a tough job, satisfying many masters in an ever-changing environment, and if we don’t get agreement on consolidation of priorities at the outset, our project may be doomed. Sometimes priorities are mismanaged and the job is left unfinished with users struggling with a partially implemented EHR.
How can that happen?
When software configuration is out of kilter or the software’s procedures don’t dovetail with the organization’s, there are a number of factors that can be affected. Discoveries of inappropriate design and configuration come up during implementation and if the project manager and team aren’t responsive and willing to negotiate priorities, it leads to unexpected development costs. Sometimes the perfect solution is sacrificed for the good-enough solution.
Because difficulties like these are ignored, too many EHR implementation projects have been left incomplete, and that hurts the EHR manufacturers’ reputations, as well as hurting the professionals and support people who rely on the software to inject some efficiency into the flow of their work. A solid consolidation-of and agreement-upon priorities is the first step, and to avoid leaving a project unfinished, a balancing act comes into play. The team needs to stick to their guns and implement according to the original consolidation of priorities as closely as possible. When that goes off-track, the project usually requires more time, work and resources to live up to changing priorities OR some items on that priority list are dropped off with a plan to address them later (complete with a scheduled date)
I recently encountered the effects of an extensive issue where consolidation of priorities was not well done and consequently ineffective. In the Mental health and addictions treatment world, the number one reason not to use the EHR is a lack of “user friendliness”, which can mean about anything you want it to mean. Some of the project was completed, but not all. Managing schedules for consumers and professionals was left incomplete. Billing and posting payments was left about half done.
Consolidation of priorities to even make the implementation work for a team like the one described above was ineffective…gotta keep on top of that.
We want our highly skilled professional team described above to stick around, so configuring and implementing the software with “user friendliness” in mind becomes imperative. Since our EHR wasn’t implemented and managed to meet a set of negotiable, consolidated priorities, the list may have been unrealistic for the budget. The team may not have had a realistic appraisal of the number of man hours required for the job, or explosive growth may have gobbled up a bundle of the team’s time that was supposed to be devoted to the implementation. Priorities were not met, plans to meet them didn’t get made immediately upon realization that was happening.
Consolidating priorities has to be a joint agreement among all the players and needs to be revisited and re-negotiated on the inside of the organization. There has to be some give and take and a clear view of what’s best for the entire organization. If reality changes the priorities, a new plan with an adjusted budget needs to be agreed upon and approved.
…Easy-peasy, right?Read more →
We just don’t communicate any more!
Mental Health and Addiction Treatment continue to lag behind physical health providers in the race to implement the Electronic Health Record (EHR), and after all these years of helping folks select, implement and optimize the EHR, I see some of the same problems come up as in the early days. Because mental health and addictions treatment are such different lines of business than software manufacture, professionals in these industries still have trouble communicating with one another. To be successful with the EHR these folks need to agree on every form, every data element, and every process as these elements relate to the software. It’s a big job, and frankly the reason IT consultants like me get calls to help agencies with their EHR woes.
I’m helping an agency in New York City that serves victims of crime with implementation of their EHR. They do a great job in this hyper-vertical line of treatment. They are smart people who keep up with treatment methods that are proven effective. The EHR will help them in three very important ways: • Intake: First contact with a consumer is critical; victims of various forms of abuse including verbal, physical and rape need the professional to listen, and professionals at this organization are very good at listening and still gathering all the information to validate the consumer has come to the right place for help, to record all clinical information needed to advance the consumer through the intake process and to confirm that the agency will be paid for the services rendered…The challenge comes in maintaining the very human, responsive relationship with the consumer while hunting around in the EHR to record information in the right place. The solution is assuring solid design of the data entry process that encourages a communication between the professional and the software while the professional’s mind is engaged and focused on the consumer’s needs. A key to success in designing this process is communications – “No” seems to be a watchword among software vendor implementers; the project manager (whether an employee or consultant like myself) turns the “No” into a “Yes” by virtue of knowing the specific business processes and personalities in the agency and how to manipulate software to meet agency, local, state and federal requirements. • Scheduling: Once the Intake professional and the consumer have made it through the initial phone call, the second stage is to see the consumer within a few days…as pain fades, the importance of the problem can seem to fade, too, so the rule of thumb is to make an appointment within 72 hours of first contact to increase the likelihood of the consumer getting treatment. The challenge met by the EHR appointment scheduling modules is to bring treatment to consumers when the abuse is fresh in the mind and willingness to recover is at its peak. It’s almost a software miracle to keep up with multiple professionals’ schedules as appointments are constantly made and cancelled; since information flows at the speed of light within the EHR, everybody knows what everybody else is doing and a central scheduler can make sure staff is kept busy, consumers are not kept waiting, and assure documentation is up to date…and as long as the software is decent, reminder messages can be sent to professionals to make sure their session documentation is up to date. • Treatment Documentation: When an agency is audited, staff can make friends with auditors by having an EHR. When Intake is directly connected to scheduling, Assessments, Treatment Plans, Progress Notes and billing, it’s an example of open communication at work; all professionals at an agency who serve a single consumer have the right information at their fingertips to help. Completing assessments on the computer with the consumer is an easy form of communication; most people have filled out a form on the computer with somebody sometime. Treatment Plans can be more of a challenge. The professional is coming to an agreement with the consumer about a mutually acceptable course of treatment, so it’s akin to the contracting process. Professional clarity and consumer transparency can be keys to writing a treatment plan that is destined to succeed, providing outcomes that both professional and consumer desire – what better way to assure this positive outcome than to write the plan together? Progress Notes are tougher to write with a consumer during treatment because most professionals think that to write the note they would need to have their heads buried in the computer screen as opposed to making eye-to-eye contact with the consumer. That would be pretty lousy communication, so a good project manager will recommend an alternative method of collaborative documentation. When the consumer comes into the room, have the subject for today’s session already written down in a note…that way the draft document is already started and if another topic erupts, so be it, you can record that early in the session. Address a few radio-button style questions like satisfying risk management requirements and current mental status then take hands off the keyboard and pay attention to the consumer with some eye-to-eye contact. Close the session with typing a recap into the note. The professional may need to clean up the note later, but so what?
If they need anything, EHR manufacturers and agencies need help communicating, and a good project manager, whether a dedicated internal employee or a consultant, gets the right information from the professionals to the EHR manufacturer in order to make a successful team effort of configuring and designing different agencies’ forms. They use the software and have valuable keys to configure it to meet the actual flow of a session serving the consumer.
Hoo-Rah.Read more →
I hadn’t heard Patrick Kennedy was running for office, but I may be living under a rock. Patrick is the son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and lately has been a featured speaker at several conferences. I hear tell he was featured on national television talking about his passion for recovery and his personal experiences that include both success and relapse.
I was happy to hear him speak to a packed house in New York at the Coalition for Behavioral Health Providers annual conference and he was dynamic, engaging, and open about his troubles with addictions and what he’s doing to recover. I liked that a lot.
He spoke well of the value of technology in Mental Health and addictions treatment, too, and I really liked that. Kennedy was responsible for introducing the Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010. Although Kennedy is no longer a member of congress, the efforts continue in both houses of congress to garner government IT funding incentives for mental health and addiction treatment providers.
I have friends in New York treatment organizations who are applying for grants to help with selecting and and implementing Electronic Health Records (EHRs). It’s slim pickins’ these days for government grants to help fund these efforts. Googling grants in this area, I found mostly some private foundations, and they can’t help everybody. This highlights the importance of including mental health and addictions treatment providers in programs like the HIT extension.
That said, EHRs continue to improve. The more expensive ones tend to be more configurable and cost more to implement than the less expensive ones. Generally speaking it’s like buying anything: software might work better if you pay a little more money and invest more effort into setting it up. Becoming a professional in this industry costs a lot in education, so they can be expensive to employ, even if the salary is a bargain in the eyes of a typical businessman. So, professionals and the organizations need the help bankrolling technology.
I look forward to hearing Patrick Kennedy speak again at the National Council Conference in Washington DC in early May. It should be a great conference, so if you’re a professional and plan to go, look for my name tag among the thousands, match it to my photo on this site, and say “Howdy”. My three-fold mission is to talk with a lot of vendors and discover all the new and wonderful technology that’s available, talk with some old friends whom I’ve helped with technology in the past, and make some new friends.Read more →
It’s unusual to be in the behavioral health business without some sort of problem with an Electronic Health Record (EHR).
In 2013 associates and I helped two large nationwide chains, and two small, New York City non-profit clinics select EHRs. Yes, there are still agencies out there that don’t have computers on the professionals’ desks. Practically all behavioral health agencies have billing systems (if they didn’t they’d have big trouble getting paid by insurance, Medicaid and Medicare), but the clinical side of the business is still lagging behind. That’s problem number 1.
Also in 20113 we helped a state mental health system design an EHR, a large Wisconsin county develop an entire reporting system and a number of smaller community substance abuse and mental health clinics implement new software systems because they needed professional help. A number of helping professionals have access to EHRs but aren’t using them because of failed or incomplete implementations. That’s problem number 2.
A number of behavioral health agencies we help have EHRs that just don’t act as advertised. We were not surprised to learn this. There are a number of contributing factors; software salespeople may not understand programmers’ descriptions of new features or functionality; software support departments constantly lose people because eventually anybody can get tired of listening to complaints all day; and finally, agency brass just can’t forecast the revenue to invest in fixing software problems. Optimizing software is problem number 3.
The crowd I work with is top-notch and resolve all three of these problems.
Recently our group was approached by a software company who needed our help with a product they recently purchased. We felt flattered.
I was happy to hear an EHR vendor indicate that he liked my style; I’m working with that company now on an EHR implementation. That’s a big complement…satisfying customers can be easy compared to getting a kind word from a software vendor.
When a software vendor sells out to a corporate conglomerate and most of the employees either abandon-ship or are “downsized” (AKA “chosen a different career path” because they don’t fit in with the new management style), MindHealthBiz and associates work well with vendors and have resources to complete a failed implementation or deliver software support and programming services that seem to no longer be available from the software company (even web services, which seems to be troublesome in this industry).
We’re here to help. Take a look around the site. If you want to know more about MindHealthBiz and the software selection, implementation and optimization services offered, connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-T.Read more →
Professionals reach out to me occasionally looking for an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) that works for a solo practitioner or somebody working in a small practice. More often than not, they are frustrated because they can’t locate exactly what they want or are not necessarily tech savvy enough to configure and learn the software without aid of professional help. Moreover, they can’t justify the expense involved in paying tech people to help them with this tech problem. For these folks, I want to say it’s not a hopeless situation. There are some nice products out there that can help bring professionals into the 1990s, uh, I mean 2013, like TheraScribe.
Just for the record, I define the EMR as a record that’s limited to the practice and an Electronic Health Record (EHR) as a record capable of electronically sharing confidential consumer treatment information in a secure manner.
Most of the Electronic Health Record software (EHR) in the market caters to larger customers, organizations that employ a number of professionals sized from a Community Mental Health to a state psychiatric hospital system. A far cry from a solo practitioner, and not the market ThereScribe targets. The foundation of TheraScribe is treatment plan and assessment content. TheraScribe uses treatment plan content from Wiley Publishing, content also offered by a number of the manufacturers of larger systems. Checking into their website revealed a great education source in itself. If a professional wants to learn how the EMR ties to education, best practices, HIPAA and HITECH compliance, he could do worse than spending a couple hours with the TheraScribe website.
They even have audio-visual aids on the website. I reviewed their “get started” video recorded by TheraScribe creator Arthur Jongsma, PhD. The video gives a brief introduction to the electronic version of Treatment/Care Plans, Progress Notes, consumer homework and a bunch more. Jongsma says the software is quick & easy to learn, which you’d expect in a sales video, and on the surface it seems simple to me, however if you’re making a decision on an EMR, I’d suggest you look deeply into the product and try to connect with another professional or three who are actually using it successfully. References for products sometimes turn into mentors and we all need mentors.
The brief presentation started with the input of consumer standard demographics like name and address, and included gathering insurance information including authorizations (a novel approach to start at the beginning). If a professional has avoided working with insurance companies because the work involved can be more trouble than it’s worth, software like this combined with third party billers can increase revenue…and who doesn’t like the idea of a few more sheckles arriving in the mail?
I like that this product is enabled to attach electronic documents to the patient record, like scans, photos and PDFs. Sometimes outside information needs to come in because it’s valuable in treatment, and sometimes it’s valuable in billing, and this is a great organizational tool. The next trick is to make the document easily accessible, and you may want to ask a salesperson to show you how that happens in the software; sometimes it hard to locate the documents you attach to a record.
A huge advantage TheraScribe has is a design tool; it doesn’t appear too robust and may be limited in what it can do to modify the system to suit special needs, however you can create some custom fields in your EMR, and not all products will let you do that. Sometimes state and local licensing requirements insist certain information be tracked, and being able to add in a data field could be just the ticket to stay on the right side of the rules and regulations.
Sharing of Patient Health Information (PHI) is tracked in the software’s HIPAA module and enables recording of signed release forms and other documents required to keep consumer information confidential and prove that you’re following the rules. EHR software serving organizations need to be Meaningful Use certified, and this sort of thing is a pre-requisite, however for a solo professional this consideration seldom comes into play so TheraScribe isn’t certified. Still, even without certification, the rules need to be followed and sharing of consumer data needs special attention, and the software attempts to address the issue.
The assessment collects narrative about family, development, substance abuse, socio-economic factors and medical history. The thing that jumped out at me was the lack of check boxes to provide measurable metrics about the makeup of your practice over its lifetime. Other standard information like strengths and weaknesses have multiple select checkboxes, which the user can add to. A professional may want to check into this sort of functionality further if scientific method to improve a practice seems important.
If a professional uses a licensed assessment instrument, use of the tool and the scores can be noted in the consumer’s record, however you don’t see instruments in the system, simply because that would be infringement of another company’s intellectual property.
The mental status exam follows the same pattern as recording strengths and weaknesses with lots of check boxes, indicating risk assessment, thought form and content, as well as a narrative for the professional’s summary.
The Recovery section of the software is based on ASAM criteria, delivering a score to justify a level of care selected for a consumer; once again, narrative enables descriptions of outcome. If you like this sort of thing, it could come in handy.
One great fact about TheraScribe is that a solo professional can get some of the EMR functionality that they thought was reserved for peers working in large organizations. Once a professional gets used to using an EMR, they seldom want to do without it. The fact is, good documentation can help professionals deliver a high quality of care, and certainly extend billing into new payers (insurance).
If you’re a professional in the market for an EMR that would work in a solo setting, TheraScribe is certainly worth a look.Read more →
When they say “Don’t be so sensitive”, I have a stock answer: Bull. When somebody tells you that emotional consideration has no place in business, well, that’s just not realistic. I tend to ask what they’re afraid of, which usually strikes a chord because we’re emotional beings. Many of us tend to avoid an emotional approach to business, some are successful. The fact is that our work can be a third of our life (sleep takes up a quarter or so), which is a big chunk; how can we avoid getting wrapped up in it emotionally?
Why, you may ask, is this tech guy talking about emotion in business? You could carry that one more step and ask why I feel people should go ahead and be sensitive sometimes.
Let’s take a look at the project manager, for example. In the worst case example, a “Project Manager” can be a misnomer, a title that has grown into a college discipline, with all sorts of groovy software tools to track productivity, count beans and generally justify existence. A true Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation project manager becomes much more than that. One minute she’s a hard-nosed business person keeping a project on track and preventing “scope creep”, and the next she’s counseling a professional who is having emotional trouble making the leap from a paper system to using the software. She’s a superwoman who really needs to be sensitive to every aspect of the implementation, the professionals she works with and even the consumers walking through the door for service.
Jobs depend on cooperation and communication. In the business of law enforcement, a police officer depends on cooperation of citizens and expects to be listened to; the task of the day could save lives and cooperation and communication become a life and death necessity. Information technology doesn’t usually involve life or death situations although it can, if for example the Electronic Health Record (EHR) is expected to send a message to a professional who must complete a suicide risk assessment because a consumer says they are having ideas of how to take their own life. More often, the emotion that we see in implementing the EHR is frustration. That experience revolves around fear. Perhaps a professional has trust issues that the software will alert somebody about the need for a suicide assessment, or is simply afraid they won’t “get it” and be able to use the software successfully. Many times professionals so firmly believe that computers are de-humanizing that they don’t want anything to do with the EHR.
Unless the professional gets mad enough or sensitive enough over a situation like this to say something to the project manager, all that emotion gets bottled up and can affect the professional’s effectiveness in other areas of their work…and we don’t want that happening when they’re trying to help a consumer.
A consumer can recognize that a certain way of talking, specific communication techniques, can elicit a positive response from a professional. Treatment can be contagious. Those of us who have implemented a number of EHRs over the years spend a lot of time around professionals, training them, listening to problems they uncover and counseling them.
Anyone can have difficulty with a software program, especially professionals in mental health and addictions treatment who have been working in the field for a considerable amount of time. The answer is to screw on an attitude that is open to moving forward. Get mad enough to take action and be successful with the thing that gives you nothing but fear and frustration today.
Sometimes it works.
These days most professionals expect an EHR to be part of their work, however some work better than others, and some are just not configured to be convenient and intuitive for the user. That’s where that project manager / counselor comes in.
So, like I said, be sensitive. Let it out. If you’re a professional who’s frustrated with his EHR, go ahead and get emotional about it. It just might get you the attention you need.Read more →
“How much is this going to cost me?”
Fair enough. Fiscal reality is, after all…fiscal reality, and this question is forced to the front of a number of business conversations I have. Often I just have to look the person in the eye and tell the truth: “I don’t know”. That’s because getting an Electronic Health Record (EHR) to work isn’t just a matter of buying software and relying on a vendor to get it up and running. If that were so, the job would be pretty simple. Unfortunately, a number of professionals and professional organizations do just that, and become quite disillusioned when they discover how much work it is to get the EHR running effectively.
Hence, our headline. Buying and implementing an EHR is a lot of work for the buyer, and the habit has been to self-implement. Sounds a bit like self-treatment, eh? Implementation is not explosive, it can be frustrating. It’s not nuclear winter, it can be hot tempered moments. It’s not business as usual, it is certainly The End Of The World As We Know It. Professionals need help buying and implementing their EHR as much as a consumer with depression or anxiety needs professional help.
We don’t want to change much, just everything.
If the EHR starts with a software product that meets the needs of the professionals, software that’s capable of delivering a way to increase the quality of interactions with consumers and let professionals help more people by decreasing paperwork, then it’s a product that works and is usually sorely needed. Still, it’s a vision. The productive EHR doesn’t become a reality until it’s implemented and the professional comes to rely on it for documentation, billing and even communications with other professionals serving the same consumer.
If the implementation of an EHR focuses on the specific workflows for administrative, clinical, medical and other professionals involved in helping consumers, then their work lives will be drastically changed for the better. Each of these workflows involves filling out different documents on the computer and producing the results of that input that’s different depending on who needs the consumer information. The Electronic Health Record has changed the world for everybody who uses it productively and consumers can notice the change. Hopefully the change is positive and all that information at a professional’s fingertips will help with the person’s recovery.
The administrative person’s world is changed by keeping track of consumers who have been served before, and are being treated now, or who have inquired about getting help since the EHR came on-line. Being able to instantly access even sketchy consumer information and avoid re-entry of data by having consumers verify information like their address and such saves time, enabling the administrative person to help more folks…typically making it through the day in a better mood because stress is diminished. Ask anybody working in this capacity of helping treatment professionals and you’ll discover it’s a mixed bag whether their work life is improved by the EHR. Their answer may change by the minute if the EHR has been only partially configured to their workflow. The short story here is that if their needs were considered in purchasing the software and if implementation paid attention to their needs (somebody has to ask them), their work lives are improved. They get more done with fewer errors, and less falls through the cracks.
Clinical and medical professionals experience the same phenomenon in different ways. When a nurse treats a consumer for an injury or illness, certain things are important: Lab results, recording vital signs, and medical treatment requirements. If the EHR is selected and implemented with them in mind, the software they see could be much different from the software the clinical professional uses even it’s the same system. Clinical notes are concerned with addressing treatment goals and objectives, while medical notes are concerned with addressing health issues typically discovered by exams. The process of discovering a malady, diagnosing it, treating it and following through to assure healing happens is the same idea, but the actual tasks and subsequent measurement of success are quite different. That said, not only does the software need to do different things for these professionals, but the implementation needs to account for each of their workflows differently so the software tool will serve the consumer’s needs well.
Changing the world with the EHR involves one great, very human component: fear. A software vendor is not likely to be around enough to help the staff overcome the fear. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a cracker-jack project manager on the inside when you’re implementing the software that will change your world.Read more →