Critical requirements for a psychiatry EHR

A practice’s EHR needs will generally be dictated by the needs of its patient population and the type of clinical data the treatment of these patients generates. Psychiatry practices, just as general practices, will require the core functionality offered by general practice EHRs. However, the unique needs presented by a psychiatry practice’s patient population require a psychiatry EHR to offer sophisticated features about the sharing of patient data in a seamless fashion, monitoring care and medications, and providing patient engagement features.

Although one could assemble a lengthy list of EHR requirements psychiatry practices need, the three most critical requirements are discussed below.

1. Interoperability

Psychiatry practices overwhelmingly serve patients who are receiving care from other providers. Thus the ability to share clinical information seamlessly is vital.  Treatment data from a psychiatry practice should be able to be shared easily with other providers to coordinate care across different settings. Similarly, a psychiatry EHR should also be able to process information from other providers.

2. Medication management and monitoring

Mental illness is often comorbid with other physical illnesses. Accordingly, psychiatric practices should select an EHR that can monitor a patient’s health through sharing data with other providers, but also be able to monitor the medications patients are taking and be alerted if the risk of harmful drug interaction is present.

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Further, many providers of psychiatric services deal with patients that are currently or have in the past dealt with substance abuse issues. Therefore, the practice is able to monitor potential warning signs of drug abuse found in the type of medications a patient is being prescribed by other providers.

3. Patient engagement tools

For psychiatry practices, patient engagement provides not only a way for clinicians to remain in close contact with their patients, but also offers the patient the ability to take an active role in their treatment by communicating with their provider. Through a patient portal that can provide an effective messaging system, a psychiatric practice can ensure that patients and clinicians can remain in contact. Further, a patient portal with scheduling capabilities can offer patients the opportunity to schedule appointments online, therefore, reducing no-shows. Lastly, an EHR that allows a free flow of information between patient and provider communication can facilitate greater compliance with treatment, particularly with medication adherence.

In addition to communication and scheduling features, a psychiatric EHR should also offer telemedicine functionality. According to recent data, the United States is suffering from a dramatic shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health providers. The shortage is particularly acute in rural areas and inner-city areas.  One of the strategies used to overcome this shortage is the use of telepsychiatry whereby a clinician either engages a patient directly via a remote link up or advise primary care providers who are on site engaging directly with the patient.

Although at their core, general practice and psychiatry EHRs share similar features, the unique considerations that come with the patient population in a psychiatry practice require a more specialized set of features that can help clinicians better provide care to what can often be a challenging patient population.  


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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green

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