At a time when behavioral health organizations are trying to find ways to improve their ability to serve clients, there is no shortage of new ideas for how to do that. 

Some of these ideas will be truly transformative and help to meet the needs of clients better than ever before. Others are more like expensive fads or novelties that will prove over time to be ineffective. 

It’s not always easy to tell which is which, but one thing we can do as EHR consultants is to take our time and not jump on every new trend right away.

In this article we’ll explain why being an early adopter shouldn’t always be your go-to solution:

Don’t be the first to adopt if you are working on a time-sensitive issue.

If you’re working on a time-sensitive issue, it may be best to wait until others have had success with the new process. For example, if you are implementing a new billing policy that affects this quarter’s clients, it might make sense to wait until other agencies have successfully implemented similar policies – learn from their experience.

Similarly, if your agency is introducing a new way of doing something—for example, using an online system instead of paper records—it’s probably better not to be first in line during a critical time of year where you might need access to historical data quickly.

Don’t be the first to adopt if you have limited resources.

If you’re a behavioral health agency with limited resources, you should not be an early adopter. Why? Because it’s not worth the risk to your organization.

If you’re a small team, you don’t have the capacity to do everything at once. Your goal should be to find out what works best for your community and then expand from there.

It can be tempting to want to test new technology because it looks interesting or fun, but if it’s overcomplicating things, maybe consider another method that would work better for your organization’s size.

Don’t be the first to adopt if you don’t have support from senior leadership.

You need to be able to show senior leadership how adopting this new process will help your agency, and they need to be on board with it. If you’re not sure whether you have their support or if they are not able to support you in implementing the change, it’s best to wait until you have that support before trying something new.

Examples: When being an early adopter does not make sense.

Using the frameworks described above, here are some examples where you will not want to be the first to implement something new:

  • Insurance-mandated billing changes. How often have you rushed to update your billing processes and codes thanks to an insurance mandate, only to have them CHANGE again later on before the deadline? Too often to count. Save yourself the extra work and wait longer to implement. 
  • EHR system upgrades. You’ll likely receive a notification from your EHR system that it is time to upgrade to a new version. Upgrades can have a significant impact without proper testing. Agencies are lean, and they don’t always have the resources to do the necessary testing. Let the bigger agencies go first with the update and wait to hear the feedback. 
  • A new brand EHR. Unless you’re getting something out of the exchange (see section below), you should wait to try out a brand new EHR. Over time, other users will be able to share candid feedback about the new entry into the market, and you can make a judgment call at that time.

When being an early adopter does make sense.

Putting yourself out there as an early adopter can be risky. You’ll have to invest time and resources into implementing the new technology or process before you know if it works. But if you’re confident that your agency is going to benefit from the change, these risks will be worth it in the long run.

  • When you’re getting a favorable contract price. Is the new module or service being offered at a greatly reduced cost? If so, it might be worth trying.
  • When you’re getting a favorable contract length. Are you able to negotiate better terms in the contract other than the cost? It may be worth jumping in feet first.
  • When you’re getting a custom set-up for the tool. If the vendor allows customizations to suit your very unique situation, it may be worth being an early adopter.

We hope we’ve given you some ideas about when to be an early adopter and when not to be one. 

But if all this still seems like too much work, there’s a simple rule of thumb: keep your eyes on the big picture and do not get caught up in trying to use every new intervention or technique under the sun. What matters most is moving forward—whether you do so using an established process or one that’s just been invented yesterday!

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