ONC: HIT holds 'great potential' to help behavioral health patients

An issue brief published last week by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Office of Policy and Planning acknowledges that behavioral health providers lag behind in health IT adoption and outlines efforts for change.  

The 11-page brief, issued Sept. 26, admits that while health IT has "great potential" to improve outcomes of behavioral health patients, adoption has been spotty in large part because most behavioral health providers are not eligible for the Meaningful Use program; unique challenges also are present, such as heightened privacy and security concerns. For instance, only 2 percent of psychiatric hospitals have a basic electronic health record system.

The brief outlines opportunities and next steps to advance health IT among behavioral health providers, such as accelerating health information exchanges and involvement of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to facilitate EHR adoption.

"Pilot projects and other initiatives supported by ONC and federal partners have demonstrated how health IT can connect and integrate behavioral health providers with other health care settings," the brief says. "Moving forward, ONC will continue to leverage federal support of health information exchange through a variety of coordinated programs and resources."

ONC has been at the forefront of extending EHR use to behavioral and other providers not eligible for the program, last month issuing guidance to vendors to offer certified EHR technology to such providers and also outlining a strategy to accelerate interoperability.

There also are legislative efforts underway to expand the Meaningful Use Program to behavioral health providers. The program has been tweaked in the past to allow additional providers, such as behavioral health physicians, to participate in the program.

To learn more:
- here's the brief (.pdf)