A Buyer’s Guide to K-12 Electronic Health Records Systems
Have you been using your district’s SIS to manage health records? Are you considering a more comprehensive approach to managing students’ physical, mental, and behavioral health?
There are a few system features you’ll want to make sure your potential electronic health records vendor can offer you. This buying guide will help you choose the right electronic health records system for your district.
Don’t forget to download this handy buyer’s guide checklist to get a list of questions you should ask potential vendors.
Want a print-friendly version?
How does an electronic health records system keep my district compliant?
Meet state and federal reporting requirements
Every state has different reporting requirements, and it’s up to the school nurse — along with other health professionals — to maintain compliant documentation of encounters, report on medication administration, and comply with and any “applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, ordinances, executive orders, policies,” and so much more.
An electronic health records system can help school nurses schedule, document, report, and comply with state and federal standards for physical, mental, and behavioral health. When you’re looking for an electronic health records system, often referred to as an EHR, you’ll want to make sure it’s FERPA compliant, too.
Comprehensive documentation is compliant documentation
For one, an EHR can aid health professionals in using consistent medical terminology that can be standardized across all of the schools in a district. Also, in any given student encounter, nurses are responsible for collecting certain pieces of information — date, time, reason for visit, symptoms, diagnosis, any follow up appointment — and recording it in a standardized way. But if you’re still using a SIS health module, your school nurses might be struggling to ensure all required information is recorded in the right format. This can even result in redundant work on the part of school nurses, taking up additional time in their workday. This allows for more accurate data and reporting across your district.
Faster immunization tracking
Vaccination reporting is a process that many schools still handle manually, requiring time to confirm vaccine statuses, verify student information, and identify students out of compliance…all before beginning the process to remind parents that the child needs a particular vaccine.
Some electronic health records systems offer near-instantaneous immunization tracking with an integration to your state’s immunization registry. One tip: some vendors offer a third-party connection to a state immunization registry rather than a direct connection. With a direct connection, you get greater student data security and more up-to-date information.
That increased speed can help kids avoid missing school due to compliance issues, and that’s something that can help increase state funding.
Want to dive deeper into immunization tracking?
This calculator can help you understand how much time your team could save if they didn’t have to manually enter dates and doses.Check it out
Many districts have standard annual physical screenings (for example, vision and hearing screenings). Your electronic health records system should allow your school nurses to document groups en masse or multiple screenings for one individual in an intuitive workflow. With the ongoing student mental health crisis, an increasing number of districts are implementing universal screening for mental health issues, too. The practice is recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists (and has been since 2009), so this is something you’ll want to ensure your potential school health vendor can help you facilitate now or whenever your district is ready to do so.
The importance of experience
When you choose a vendor for your electronic health record needs, they should be able to provide you with guidance rather than asking you to provide product guidance. They should be proactive in improving the product based on client feedback and anything that’s happening in schools across the country. Working with a vendor who has served the school nurse community for longer is the best way to ensure you’re investing in a product that is ready-to-use and will be user-friendly.
Frontline’s system was built with input from school nurses and has served districts of all types, sizes, and locales for over fifteen years, making it a safe choice.
How does an electronic health records system help me increase Medicaid reimbursements?
Medicaid billing documentation
There are a few key features you’ll want to look for to make sure your electronic health records system will help you get the most out of your Medicaid reimbursement. But three stand out from rest:
- An integrated single point of data entry for compliant encounter and Medicaid billing documentation
- Built-in billing codes make the billing process seamless
- Built-in data validations to help nurses with compliant documentation
Also, if you’re using your SIS to document health services, you might be missing out on the kind of documentation that is Medicaid-ready (and audit-proof!). The reporting available to you in your SIS may be another reason to look for an EHR to manage health, as it might fall short of what you need for financial planning and more.
How does an electronic health records system help me with staffing?
School health staff shortages
Staff shortages for crucial health roles in schools have made staffing difficult. According to a Frontline survey, participants felt “frustration resulting from a desire to increase the number of mental health professionals on staff but an inability to do so because of a limited candidate supply.”
If your district struggles to source candidates, you’re not alone. But one step you can take to help your health professionals avoid burnout is providing tools that allow them to spend less time on paperwork and more time directly serving students.
Having a dedicated system made for K-12 school health sends a subtle, yet strong message to potential candidates that you value the work they do.
Purpose-built for health professionals
Attracting school nurses and other health professionals is one thing, and retaining them is another. In your search for an EHR, you’ll want to look for a system that is purpose-built for health professionals. That means looking for features like:
- Workflows designed for school nurses and mental health providers
- Software that eliminates redundant tasks and data entry
- Easy visibility for substitute nurses to help with continuity of care
How does an electronic health records system help me support student mental health?
With schools under increasing scrutiny to show how they are supporting students’ mental health, especially in the wake of a crisis, proper documentation for mental health encounters is growing in its importance. That said, proper documentation shouldn’t get in the provider’s way of delivering care to the student.
Some electronic health records systems have built-in mental health modules that allow your district to demonstrate sufficient care if you ever face legal action. Of course proactive mental health care is always the goal, and your electronic health records system should be able to support your providers with this, too.
Identify patterns and trends
Mental illness is such a difficult thing to proactively diagnose and treat because it presents differently in individuals, and often, it’s an invisible illness.
But sometimes, there are small signs — a recurring stomachache might be a symptom of anxiety, for instance. In these cases, having a system with robust reporting capabilities can make all the difference. You should be able to access historical documentation, and the reporting tools available to you should allow you to look at trends for depression, bullying, suicide ideation, anger management, and peer conflict. Additionally, your potential system should allow you to dig into these trends not only for an individual student, but also across the student body to offer insight into the issues your community faces.
Intuitive workflows for mental health providers
Mental health providers have unique needs, and the software you choose should meet those unique needs. For example, they might need to schedule and document group therapy and counseling sessions. When communicating with parents or other providers, they should be able to do so securely. When you start talking directly to vendors, you might ask, “are the software’s workflows made for mental health providers? Can we customize them based on our district’s unique policies?”
Questions to ask vendors on this topic:
- Are the software’s workflows made for mental health providers?
- Can we customize the workflows based on our district’s unique policies?
Enhancing your Medicaid reimbursement
When schools unlock their full reimbursement potential, that can mean more funding to support students. With Free Care, the services delivered to Medicaid-enrolled students who receive services for mental health, substance use, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and more are eligible for reimbursement. That means a potential for more federal funding for your district.
But in order to be eligible, there must be an established Plan of Care. Your electronic health records system should make this easy. With features like required fields and custom fields, you should be able to start collecting reimbursements as soon as Free Care is available in your state.
A Tip for Your Search
When you’re considering vendors, ask them how they manage change. When the world flipped upside down with COVID-19, how did they react? More importantly, were they able to make changes to their product to meet new needs from their clients?
Frontline has a team dedicated to clients using School Health Management, and that team has over 100 years of combined experience in school health. They’ve been through it all, and they know how to support the needs of K-12 school health operations.See it in action