Meaningful Use barriers remain for behavioral health providers

Behavioral health providers continue to lag behind others in the industry when it comes to adoption of electronic health records, according to an article in the Washington Post.

Mental health clinics, psychiatric hospitals and psychologists, like post-acute providers, are not part of the Meaningful Use program. As a result, they can't earn the incentive payments that would help defray the costs of transitioning to digital records.

To that end, a number of advocacy groups have been pushing for the addition of these providers to the incentive program. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) is slated to introduce a bill this month that would do so; there were similar bills introduced in the last legislative session, as well.

However, behavioral health providers also run into additional obstacles to EHR adoption, according to the article. For instance, their records are of a highly sensitive nature, subject to laws more stringent than HIPAA, and frequently include information about people other than the patient, such as ex-spouses; there're a heightened concern about the privacy and security of the data.

There also are the general obstacles to EHR adoption and Meaningful Use that may stymie efforts to add behavioral health providers to the Meaningful Use program, such as the lack of interoperability of electronic records generally and the backlash against the program itself.

There have been indications that electronic psychiatric records can be shared and that they improve patient care. And the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services continues to move non-Meaningful Use providers into the digital age via use of payment changes that require or encourage EHR use. However, excluding these providers from the incentives makes it more difficult for them to afford the systems, which in turn impedes interoperability and coordination of care.

To learn more:
- read the article