Written by: John Lynn
I’ve had a somewhat unique interest in the behavioral health world ever since I started working with EHR software because the first EHR I implemented had to merge a health center together with a counseling center. As such, I was really excited to get a chance to interview Dr. David Lischner, CEO and Founder of Valant Medical Solutions. Those interested in Behavioral Health EHR software will enjoy this interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Valant Medical Solutions came about?
I founded Vālant with the purpose of helping behavioral healthcare providers manage their practices more efficiently. After graduating from residency in 2002 I started a group practice and became disappointed with the solutions available to psychiatrists for managing their practices. I knew that in order to successfully run and grow my practice, I was going to have to be as efficient as possible and utilize technology to my advantage. After unsuccessfully searching for software that fit my needs, I partnered with my brother who is a software developer to create the Vālant EHR.
Being a newer EHR company, what assurance can you provide psychologists and psychiatrists that your EHR is on solid footing?
First off we are the fastest growing behavioral health specific EHR on the market – and don’t plan to change that any time soon! We have been in business since 2005 and have over 1,100 providers and close to 2,000 users across the country using our product. Our product is fully certified and HIPAA compliant.
Secondly, we are 90% through a very successful round of financing, and it is clear that we have become the market leading solution for behavioral healthcare practices. We are on very solid footing.
Why do behavioral health professionals need a specialized EMR? What does Valant provide that other traditional EHR software don’t include?
It all comes down to the understanding and knowledge we have of the market. That “domain expertise” is expressed in every interaction and every feature of our product. Psychiatrists again and again tell me that we just get it, and that the product “understands how I work”, in a way that other vendors and products do not.
As an example, our new module release: Mobile NotesTM, is designed for capturing outcomes data relevant to a behavioral health clinician and using that data to not only improve care, but also auto generate narrative for the provider. That functionality is simply not present in other EHR’s and couldn’t be provided within large multidisciplinary EHR’s.
Behavioral healthcare providers want speed boats that are fast and have a very specific purpose rather than big cruise ships that have a little bit of something for everyone.
How many psychiatrists and other mental healthcare professionals do you have using your EMR?
We have over 500 psychiatrists and over 1,100 providers using our product. Including solo practices, public community health centers, mobile practices, and large group practices.
What’s Valant’s approach and thoughts on the HITECH Act and meaningful use? Do you see many mental health professionals getting EHR incentive money?
We have had over 20 providers successfully attest for meaningful use and a number of them have already received their checks. Our approach is unique in that we support “ease of meaningful use” in both our product and our support processes.
We have practice success managers that monitor the progress of our doctors and coach them along to help them achieve success. It’s not enough to simply buy a certified product. It’s important to assess the vendor and product’s ability to help you achieve success. We view the attestation process as a partnership with our doctors, treating their success as our own.
What advantages do you see for mental health professionals that have an EMR versus those that still chart on paper?
I think 3 of our biggest advantages are: greater efficiency, better patient outcomes and more revenue capture. Our newest module: Mobile Notes, delivers rapid note creation at the point of care that is faster than paper documentation. It includes automatic narrative generation from patient outcomes questionnaires and leverages an IPad’s voice recognition capability for the narrative sections of the note. It’s the perfect note creation tool for a behavioral healthcare provider and even before its release, has pried many doctors away from paper and pen.
Mobile Notes also allows practitioners to track outcomes data for their patients, providing the ability to monitor patient progress over time. This ability is not only helpful when assessing treatment plans and communicating progress to a patient, but may also become required in the future. As an example, United recently announced that over 70% of their codes would be pay for performance.
Who are Valant’s biggest competitors and what differentiates Valant from other behavioral health EMR?
I’d say that for the private practice psychiatry market, it is now mostly a race between ICANotes, Valant, and Practice Fusion.
ICANotes has been around for a number of years. I remember being impressed by a demonstration even before Valant was founded. They have had a nice system for converting check boxes into narrative. Some users are very happy with the way they can create intake notes and progress notes with just clicks. They’ve clearly developed a nice system for doing this that has generated a loyal following. It is still fundamentally a client-server product rather than a web based system. Also, when I last looked, they had not added a practice management module. [Update: Sandy Crowley commented that ICANotes does have a practice management capability.] We’ve addressed the narrative generation issue in our v5.0 release and have tied it to outcomes measures pushed from a patient portal. So we’ve combined 3 processes into one, which we think creates something much, much bigger and more powerful than check box to narrative generation alone.
The most common reason that Psychiatrists go with Practice Fusion is the price. The basic EHR without practice management is free, however the user will have to suffer through ad pop-ups and accept that your anonymized patient data is now owned by Practice Fusion. [John's Editorial Comment: Practice Fusion does have advertising, but does not use pop up ads as part of that advertising. Practice Fusion does have research rights to the data, but the doctors own the data. I'm sure many see research rights to the data as Practice Fusion owning the data, but it's worth highlighting that physicians own the data on Practice Fusion as well.] It’s an option for practices that are not bothered by this and are OK with a system that is largely text based and not optimized for behavioral healthcare.
Our big differentiator now, is our newest module release. I know that I am repeating myself. (Can you tell that I am excited about our newest release?) I really do think it is going to change the way we (clinician) practice. It will allow us (behavioral health practitioners) to get our notes done more rapidly and easily, engage better with patients, and allow us to incorporate outcomes tracking into our clinical practices.
You’ve recently launched a number of mobile initiatives, can you tell me what mobile solutions you offer mental health providers?
We were the first in our market to release a pure mobile version, which we now call Mobile Calendar. It includes a calendar with syncing to smart phones or any other calendar and key clinical information and demographic information necessary to support care when you are away from your office.
We also now have Mobile Notes, which is a more robust version of Mobile Calendar. It takes outcomes measures completed by patients on their PC or mobile devices and converts the data into narrative and then takes advantage of the iPad’s native voice recognition capabilities to support rapid note creation at the point of care.
And what mobile health options do you provide their patients and clients?
We now have Vālant Patient PortalTM. Allowing clinicians to send intake forms before the first appointment. Patients will receive push reminders to fill out intake forms before initial appointments and outcome measures before follow-up appointments. All of this is done via a secure patient platform that is branded to the practice. Patients are also able to confirm upcoming appointments, update demographic information as well as view CCDs.
5 years from now, what will differentiate Valant’s EMR?
Well it’s worth taking a step back and asking what the EHR landscape will look like in 5 years. Nearly all providers will be using EHR’s. EHR’s will be connected. Patients, hopefully, will have some control over how their data is utilized and who gets to see their data. Providers will think of EHR’s as tools that support them and work for them at the point of care. An EHR will that keep providers connected, educated and prepared. Patients will have their own set of tools that work seamlessly with EHR’s that help keep them healthy and connected to their providers. All this should be in the service of improving patient outcomes, keeping patients healthy, and improving the quality of work for healthcare providers. I believe in that vision.
By staying within the behavioral healthcare segment and not trying to be all things to all providers, Vālant will have a better chance of fulfilling this vision for our providers and their patients. It’s a big enough challenge as behavioral healthcare is 7% of the entire $2.6 Trillion healthcare market.
So in summary, we’ll be very deeply imbedded within the vertical market of behavioral healthcare and will ultimately be a platform that connects providers, patients and other areas of medicine, as they adapt to the changing healthcare landscape. We’ll continue to offer a set of tools to our providers and patients that improve provider life and work quality, the value of healthcare, and patient health.