Clinical and office staff are burdened with tedious, time-consuming tasks: patients must be registered, appointments scheduled, claims processed and prescriptions ordered. Much staff attention is preoccupied not with direct patient care but with administrative matters. Fortunately, technology such as electronic health records (EHR) systems holds many opportunities for improving clinical workflows through automation of daily tasks. Both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health, mental health and substance abuse facilities in particular could benefit from automation of routine tasks, stretching resources, helping make for a smoother transition of patients into and out of care, and improving outcomes.

Increased Adoption of EHR

In the past decade, adoption of EHR systems has significantly increased across the United States.

  • Nearly nine in 10 office-based physicians had adopted EHR by 2015.
  • This figure (87 percent) is more than twice the number (42 percent) in 2008.
  • Between 2014 and 2015, adoption of EHR increased by five percent.

How Automation of Daily Tasks Benefits Health Care Providers

Automation of routine, tedious administrative tasks frees up provider and staff time to be spent on direct patient care and on achieving better work-life balance. One example of a menial task easily be automated is prescription refill requests, which can consume up to an hour of a clinician’s time daily. Reducing the time spent on these tasks helps reduce physicians’ stress and dissatisfaction levels; over half of U.S. physicians experience professional burnout.

Areas in Behavioral Health Practices That Benefit Most From Automation

Inpatient and residential behavioral health and substance abuse facilities, community mental health centers, psychology clinics, addiction treatment centers, outpatient clinics and similar facilities all have unique needs, but some examples demonstrating the potential benefits of automation highlight the possibilities.

  • Clinical tasks: EHR-based technology can increase efficiency for tasks, such as drafting pre-populated orders and the ability to document care with shorthand entries. Automation of prescription refill tasks would free up clinical time. EHR systems can automate orders for laboratory tests, diet and seclusion/restraint.

Additionally, automated communications technology can enhance and personalize behavioral intervention content, extend contact with the patient and reduce the services that clinical staff must directly provide. Behavioral health intervention efficiency can be enhanced by automating assessment, education and patient contacts in programs such as smoking cessation and diet modification.

The right software suite can support the entire closed-loop medication management process for both on- and off-site pharmacies, from order entry, pharmacy verification and dispensing, integration with automated dispensing machines, alerts to drug and allergy interactions, and patient-specific dosing recommendations.

  • Billing tasks: EHR automates creation of claims for submission to insurance plans as well as the generation of statements to patients. Errors are minimized with the reduction of duplicate data entry, and claims can be processed much more quickly than traditional paper claims. Patient collections can be automated according to a schedule and parameters appropriate under practice policies.
  • Communications: EHR systems can improve communication between staff, among different providers and practices and with patients. Recent studies of the use of text messages to patients in treatment for depression concluded that texting improves adherence to treatments, increases patients’ application of skills learned in therapy and makes patients feel supported. Automated text messages increase the likelihood that patients will attend their therapy sessions and remember to take their medications. Additionally, clinicians can use feedback from text message inquiries to help identify clinically relevant events.

How MedEZ Can Help

Behavioral health and substance abuse facilities interested in making the transition to EHR or seeking to change their EHR software should consider MedEZ when evaluating vendors and products. MedEZ’s specialized, integrated EHR and billing suite helps both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health centers and substance abuse rehabilitation programs automate routine tasks.

MedEZ’s suite, designed for flexibility and customization, features:

  • Automated generation of sign-in sheets and attendance checks
  • User-defined security levels to limit access
  • HIPAA-compliant patient records
  • E-prescribing
  • Creation of paper or electronic claims for billing