A teen talking to a pediatrician about mental health.

Using Your EHR to Unlock Pediatric Behavioral Health Solutions: 10 Tips for Pediatricians

The current state of youth mental health is facing an unprecedented crisis. Healthcare organizations have expressed their deep concern about the mental well-being of children and have urged psychologists, pediatricians, and parents to work together to address the challenges and improve behavioral health outcomes.

Pediatricians have an important role in the entire health of children, including their mental well-being. Because there is a shortage of behavioral and mental health specialists in many areas, pediatricians must be well-equipped to treat mental health problems when referrals are not readily available. Fortunately, an Electronic Health Record (EHR) can be a powerful ally in this endeavor. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at essential EHR technologies that can help pediatricians provide comprehensive care for children with mental health concerns.

1. Comprehensive Patient History

The cornerstone for addressing a child’s mental health issues is maintaining a full patient history in your EHR. This includes not only their medical history, but also their family history, social surroundings, and any previous experiences that may have influenced their mental health. Knowing whether a child has a history of trauma, exposure to a family member with substance use issues, or family conflicts, may prove critical in understanding their own mental health. By recording this information in your EHR, you create a valuable resource for providing tailored care.

2. Screening and Assessment Tools

Your EHR should have standardized screening and assessment tools designed to detect common mental health issues in children. For instance, you can use validated questionnaires to screen for symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other conditions. These tools help you identify potential concerns early on and track a child’s progress over time. Regular screenings can provide insights into the effectiveness of your interventions and guide treatment adjustments.

3. Behavioral Health Templates

Behavioral health-focused templates specific to children and adolescents give your clinical team the blueprint they need to discuss difficult topics, write detailed documentation, and maximize claim reimbursement. With a pediatric-specialty EHR like OP, you get both symptom and diagnostic templates, relevant to the DSM-5. Anxiety and depression templates for more specified care can also be modified or adjusted by your providers based on your practice’s specific needs.

4. Care Coordination

Care coordination is especially critical when specialist referrals are scarce. Your EHR can serve as a hub for maintaining communication with other healthcare providers, schools, and any relevant support services. Use it to share patient information securely and facilitate discussions about the child’s care plan. Keeping track of these interactions within the EHR ensures that everyone involved is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

5. Telehealth Integration

Telehealth has become a lifeline for pediatric providers and their patients, especially in remote or underserved areas. Ensure that your EHR has seamless telehealth integration. This allows you to conduct virtual consultations with the child and their family, making it easier for them to access your care when in-person visits are challenging. Telehealth also enables real-time discussions, sharing of progress, and adjustments to the care plan, all of which can be documented in the EHR.

6. Medication Management

When medications are part of a child’s mental health treatment plan, your EHR can streamline the process. Maintain a medication list within the system, including dosages, frequency, and potential side effects. You can set up alerts to remind you to monitor the child’s response to medication and adjust the prescription, if necessary. This helps ensure that medication management is safe, effective, and well-documented.

7. Customized Care Plans

Create customized care plans within your EHR that address the unique needs of each child. These plans should incorporate a combination of interventions, such as therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and educational support. An EHR lets you set specific goals, track progress, and modify the care plan as the child’s needs evolve. This tailored approach is essential for providing comprehensive care that goes beyond a one-size-fits-all solution.

8. Patient Records and Portal Privacy

Seeking help for potentially sensitive issues like sexuality, mental health, or drug use is easier for children and adolescents to talk about if they can give their own consent and have confidence that their health information is kept private. Customizable privacy controls allow providers to keep protected information from parents, when applicable by state law. Privacy can be extended to medications, lab results, messages, and documented confidential conversations that occur during a patient visit. Limited access to confidential records placed on the portal is another pediatric-friendly feature that protects teen privacy and is handled with ease in OP. Make sure your EHR offers that solution and use it to gain the trust of your patients.

9. Educational Resources

Your EHR can house an extensive library of educational resources that you can share with patients, parents, and caregivers. This includes articles, videos, and informational materials that offer guidance on managing a child’s mental health condition and promoting their overall well-being. By providing access to these resources, you empower parents and caregivers with the knowledge they need to support their child effectively. Also, place these resources on your practice website so they can be accessed easily by any caregiver or patient in your care.

10. Reporting and Analytics

The data collected within your EHR is a valuable source of insights. Use the reporting and analytics tools to analyze trends in mental health care outcomes. This can help you identify which interventions are most effective, track changes in a child’s condition over time, and make data-driven decisions about adjusting your treatment approach. These data-driven improvements are key to providing high-quality care.

Make sure your reporting allows you to identify patients who are most at risk and track their scores to account for changes— both positive and negative. With OP’s Mental Health Monitor, this exact information is displayed in an easy-to-use dashboard that helps you quickly and accurately take action, empowering your clinical team and streamlining the process of monitoring these patients making it more likely for your providers to catch changes before it’s too late.

Tying it All Together

With the right pediatric-specialty EHR and a holistic approach, independent pediatricians can make a significant impact on the mental health of children, even when specialist referrals are limited. By expanding on each of these key elements, pediatricians can use their EHR as a versatile tool to provide comprehensive and personalized care to children with mental health needs, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive.

EHRs are the key to streamlining operations, identifying efficiencies and gaps in care, and freeing up valuable time for you and your staff. OP’s pediatric-specialty EHR offers features designed to help keep your practice’s financial and clinical operations running smoothly so you can focus on your patients. Contact us today to learn how Office Practicum can help your pediatric practice operate at its best.

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