Senate bill looks to expand EHR use for mental health providers

A Senate bill calling for expanded health IT incentives for adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by mental healthcare, behavioral healthcare, and substance abuse treatment providers and facilities was introduced this week by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

"Mental healthcare is a critical component of our healthcare safety net, and allowing these providers access to cost-saving, quality-enhancing advances in health information technology will improve the care that millions of American receive," Whitehouse said in a statement.

Expanding the use of EHRs also would give mental health professionals access to more comprehensive and up-to-date medical histories, and help reduce medication errors, he added.

The bill (S. 539), the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011, would extend eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid incentive funding for those who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs. In addition, he said the bill would:

  • Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentives for EHR use to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers.
  • Expand Medicare hospital incentive funding eligibility to include inpatient psychiatric hospitals.
  • Expand Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include community mental health centers, mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities.
  • Clarify eligibility of community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities for technical assistance from one of the 62 regional extension centers.

Whitehouse's bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

For more information:
- here's the announcement for Whitehouse's bill