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ClinicTracker EMR

Tuesday, 01 August 2017

The EHR Features Clinic Staff Use Most Frequently: A Modest Research Study

Top Mental Health EHR Features

Many electronic health record systems tout a vast array of features – automatic call reminders, billing, scheduling, form generators, paperwork templates, scanning, and just about anything that addresses customers’ needs. Our system, ClinicTracker, offers so many features that we’ve often shied away from listing them all, fearing that we might overwhelm prospective users. Simplicity has a certain initial appeal, even though complex capabilities inevitably prove essential for tailoring an EHR to an agency’s specific requirements.

With so many features available, we often wondered which ones our clients use most often. We figured that knowing which components of the system get the heaviest use would help us make sure our implementation process focused on them most intensively. We also anticipated that such data would encourage our developers and user-experience specialists to optimize oft-used features in terms of accessibility, speed, and reliability. We were sure that the sales and marketing crew would love to know the functionalities they should highlight.

We also thought that potential EHR users would find this information helpful. Purchasing a software program comes with many challenges for administrators, not the least of which is deciding what features are essential and which might be worthwhile but not critical.

To determine which ClinicTracker features have been most popular, we analyzed data from all our sites over the years. We tabulated the number of times a user saved a record within a particular feature of the program. The pool of data included 177 million saved records. That methodology generated the following list of features that users most often accessed to record data:

  1. Billing transactions
  2. Payment collection
  3. Recording appointments
  4. Scheduled events
  5. Billing claims
  6. Progress notes (free-form/standard)
  7. Unified messaging system
  8. Custom forms
  9. Collateral notes
  10. Related documents
  11. Appointment reminders
  12. Treatment plans
  13. Running reports
  14. Progress notes (DAP)
  15. Medication recording
  16. Progress notes (SOAP)
  17. ERA (835)
  18. Demographics
  19. Insurance authorizations
  20. Release of information
  21. Group appointments
  22. Workflow (Paperwork Compliance)

We’re not surprised to see the features at the very top of the list because they address clinics’ most pressing needs: scheduling appointments, recording progress notes, and billing for sessions. We are somewhat surprised that free- form progress notes were more popular than SOAP or DAP versions. We thought most agencies had to comply with state regulations, many of which require more specialized notes. However, our data indicate that most staff use templates that are free form or generic.

While the heavy-hitters on the list are predictable, those that fell somewhat lower are more unexpected. It turns out that clinics take full advantage of ClinicTracker’s messaging system. That means they set up notifications and alerts around paperwork/compliance, use the internal email and chat systems to communicate, and take advantage of the other collaboration tools ClinicTracker offers. That users seem to keep their communications within the agency’s IT infrastructure must reflect, in part, concerns about security and confidentiality. We also hope that clinicians use these features so often because they realize how important it is for treatment teams to communicate.

That custom forms ranked in the top third of the list is noteworthy. Its strong showing indicates that clinics use the Form Builder to create forms exactly as they want them. While we were unable to determine the exact type of forms they developed, it’s good to know that they take full advantage of this key customization tool. We also interpreted the data to indicate that, while users might initially be drawn to bare-bones systems, they ultimately appreciate the benefits of a system that has the depth of resources to foster precise customization.

One last observation: The related documents feature falls in the top ten, indicating users avail themselves of the system’s “everything in one place” architecture. That means staff are scanning external documents (letters, reports, lab data, etc.) into the client’s electronic record. Apparently, the benefits of centralized record keeping are compelling.

Because we see how tracking feature usage can yield valuable information, our development team has added new counters that will provide a more accurate assessment. Stay tuned.

ClinicTracker is a robust, future-proof mental health and substance abuse EHR. Michael Gordon, a respected clinical psychologist, and Joshua Gordon, an award-winning software engineer, founded it in 2000. ClinicTracker EHRs powerful software empowers your agency to succeed. ClinicTracker will automate many of your clinic routines, boost staff productivity, increase billing efficiency, and provide the tools you need to manage your clinic effectively. While mental health and substance abuse agencies are our main focus, our software is compatible with foster care agencies, social services, equine assisted therapy, university clinics, academic counseling, family counseling services, and eating disorder clinics.

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