Behavioral Health

Behavioral Health: An Early Look

Recently, KLAS has begun researching the IT solutions that behavioral health providers use.

Behavioral health comes with some unique needs. The very nature of mental health makes the IT that support it more complex. While we’ve made great strides in physical care, as an industry we have barely scratched the surface of behavioral health, especially from an IT perspective.

The Challenges

As I’ve spoken with many organizations involved in behavioral health I’ve heard a common problem for enterprise customers is that their vendors don’t have the expertise needed to really understand the ins and outs of behavioral health.

Providers have to be the proactive party when it comes to getting what they need and sharing their own knowledge. And when vendor contacts don’t understand behavioral health well, that can cause a disconnect in expectations, which means further frustration.

The solutions themselves tend to not be great out of the box. Enterprise customers in particular mention that they have to do a lot of customization. And often providers mention missing functionality and content, and they are the ones who drive its development and inclusion in future versions.

Organizations with few resources, little time, or limited money may struggle to make an enterprise solution work for them. Even when organizations do devote those resources, some don’t feel they get quite enough value from that investment.

Best-of-breed customers don’t have the same issues with their vendor expertise in behavioral health. Instead they cite more issues with slow development and communication as companies scale. Some speak to the need for better communication and system improvement.

The Way Through

With all these struggles, providers are still optimistic, and many would rather deal with the challenges of customization and devote internal resources to improving their solutions than be stuck in a rigid system or work with an unresponsive vendor.

What makes the difference? Vendors who really partner with their customers. The vendor relationship is what keeps providers where they are. Even if there might be something better out there, providers know there isn’t a perfect solution, so they believe they’re better off with a partnering vendor who will continually improve.

One provider told me that their vendor asked them to be as creative as they wanted and share any ideas they had. And this wasn’t just empty words; this resulted in a turnaround in the organization’s experience, and they have worked closely with their vendor to get their needs met.

Happy customers talk about their vendor’s willingness to take input and learn about the space. A vendor who listens can make up for misses on their own expertise. Best-of-breed customers also tend to see proactivity from their vendors around preparing for new regulations and upcoming changes.

The organizations that can and do put in the time and work to collaborate with their vendor have the opportunity to get a lot of new, cutting-edge technology and make the system work well with their workflows. This is a big deal because behavioral health providers often don’t have a say in their system, particularly in an enterprise environment.

One provider told me that in mental health, they have to fight to stay relevant in the organization. So, having a say with the vendor can make a big difference for these providers. They appreciate an open, flexible system and a vendor willing to partner.

At KLAS, we hear the same messages over and over in many different markets. The need for a partnering vendor is one of those perennial lessons.

As we learn more about the behavioral health space and how vendors are performing, we hope to help both sides of the vendor/provider divide find a path to improving patient care in a newer, immeasurably complex market.