HITECH should require mental health providers to adopt EHRs too, report says

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based political think tank, released a report Jan. 24 to recommend new policies that promote integrated clinical and mental healthcare in the U.S.

The report examines various insurance, workforce and administrative challenges that have created a fragmented system of care, despite recent research suggesting that integrated primary care and mental health services would improve access to care, treatment outcomes and costs for patients.

"Research has consistently shown the importance of integrating clinical and mental health services in improving outcomes," Katherine Hayes, director of health policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said in a news release.

To identify potential policy solutions that would alleviate barriers to integrated clinical and mental healthcare, the think tank convened a series of public and private discussions with patient advocates, clinical providers, behavioral healthcare providers, government officials and insurers in 2018.

One of the barriers the Bipartisan Policy Center discussed in its report was lack of data sharing between mental health providers.

To address this issue, the think tank proposed establishing financial incentives for mental health providers to use EHRs, chiefly by adjusting the purview of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009.

HITECH is often credited with spurring nationwide adoption of EHRs at hospitals and health systems. To achieve this goal at mental health facilities, the think tank suggested making funding under HITECH available for mental health providers to "encourage or require the adoption of EHRs."

"The [HITECH Act] provided billions of dollars in subsidies for medical providers to purchase and maintain EHRs, but the Act did not make incentive payments available for mental health and [substance use disorder] providers," the report reads. "While the adoption of EHRs has increased among other healthcare providers and entities, adoption by mental health and SUD providers has lagged."

To download the Bipartisan Policy Center's report, click here.

More articles on EHRs and interoperability:
Allscripts opens precision medicine program to employees
AHA, 6 other hospital groups release interoperability agenda
Vanderbilt researchers to develop EHR voice assistant, advise Epic on similar projects

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