New bill would incentivize EHR adoption among behavioral health providers

Electronic Data Capture
Lawmakers say an EHR incentive program for behavioral health providers would "put mental health on a level playing field."

Representatives from California and Kansas have introduced a new bill that would mimic the Meaningful Use program for behavioral health providers by offering incentives to those that adopt certified EHRs.

Introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, the bill would provide incentive payments to psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, outpatient treatment centers, substance-abuse treatment facilities, and independent psychologists and social workers that adopt certified EHR technology.

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The bill does not specify how much support the incentive program would provide, but in an announcement released by Matsui and Jenkins, the lawmakers pointed to the Meaningful Use program, which "has been successful in increasing adoption of EHR systems by eligible providers.”

Behavioral health providers were not included in Meaningful Use regulations, but researchers have shown that electronic charting improves documentation within psychiatric records.

“This is another step forward in our work to put mental health on a level playing field with physical health care,” said Matsui. “By encouraging the use of electronic health record technology by behavioral health providers, we can improve care coordination and behavioral health integration. That helps ensure patients receive the treatment they need in the right place at the right time.”

RELATED: CHIME backs bill that would add more flexibility to Meaningful Use requirements

Although Meaningful Use requirements have certainly increased EHR adoption among hospitals and providers, there has been plenty of pushback from across the industry regarding the pace of the program. Under proposed MACRA legislation released last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services extended the deadline to adopt EHRs that meet 2015 Edition certification requirements.

But subsequent payment updates haven’t provided the same relief for hospitals staring down a Jan. 1 deadline for Meaningful Use Stage 3. American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said he was “dismayed” at the lack of flexibility. Lawmakers are looking to resolve that concern through a new bill aimed at easing the transition to Stage 3 requirements.