Massachusetts eHealth Institute awards $1.3M to foster EHR use by behavioral health providers

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) has awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to behavioral health providers in Massachusetts to advance their use of health IT.

The awards are part of MeHI's eQuality Incentive Program that provides grants to behavioral health and long term/post-acute care providers. The behavioral health grantees manage 179 facilities throughout the state. They will receive payments upon reaching various milestones demonstrating increasingly advanced use of health IT.

"Integration of behavioral health care and medical care is a key priority for the Commonwealth, and MeHI's investment in EHRs for behavioral health providers will help them share information with other healthcare providers," MeHI Director Laurance Stuntz said in a statement. "We look forward to supporting these providers, learning from them, and continuing our support for technology that helps improve the quality of care delivered across the state in all healthcare settings."

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT estimates that one in six of people newly eligible for Medicaid coverage courtesy of the Affordable Care Act will present with indications of a behavioral health disorder, according to MeHI.

The grants come at an auspicious time. Many behavioral health providers do not qualify for incentive payments pursuant to the Meaningful Use program, and they lag significantly behind physicians and hospitals in their adoption of EHRs.

Compounding the problem is that electronic behavioral health records need special care. For instance, behavioral health records are particularly sensitive; a breach could have an especially adverse effect on patients and a chilling effect on treatment. There also are strict privacy and confidentiality laws that are unique to behavioral health, which affects data sharing.

Moreover, studies have shown the benefits of including behavioral health information in EHRs, but most EHRs have not been designed to integrate both behavioral and physical health records, which makes it more difficult to coordinate electronic patient data, requiring providers to resort to workarounds.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement