Be­hav­ioral EHR pay­ments eyed

Se­nate bill al­lows agency to try demo pro­gram with in­cen­tives for record sys­tems.

Health Data Management - - WASHINGTON REPORT - By Greg Slabodkin

The U.S. Se­nate has passed a bill au­tho­riz­ing the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices to pro­vide in­cen­tives to be­hav­ioral health­care providers to pro­mote their adop­tion of elec­tronic health records. Cur­rently, fed­eral rules pre­vent be­hav­ioral health providers treat­ing men­tal and sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders from re­ceiv­ing in­cen­tive pay­ments for im­ple­ment­ing EHR sys­tems. How­ever, the Im­prov­ing Ac­cess to Be­hav­ioral Health In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Act—in­tro­duced last year by Sens. Shel­don White­house (D-R.I.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio)—au­tho­rizes the Cen­ter for Medi­care and Med­i­caid

In­no­va­tion to im­ple­ment a de­mon­stra­tion pro­gram that of­fers in­cen­tive pay­ments to be­hav­ioral health providers for adopt­ing and us­ing EHRs. “Elec­tronic records help doc­tors and other providers make bet­ter de­ci­sions about their pa­tients’ care. Amer­i­cans who re­ceive sub­stance abuse and men­tal health treat­ment should ben­e­fit from that tech­nol­ogy, too,” said White­house in a writ­ten state­ment. “This bill would test the use of elec­tronic health records by men­tal health providers to care for pa­tients who too of­ten are left be­hind.” White­house said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has paid $38 bil­lion in in­cen­tive pay­ments to health­care providers to adopt EHRs. Yet psy­chol­o­gists, com­mu­nity men­tal health cen­ters, psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals and oth­ers that spe­cial­ize in treat­ing ad­dic­tion and be­hav­ioral health con­di­tions do not qual­ify for this fund­ing. A va­ri­ety of be­hav­ioral health or­ga­ni­za­tions have lob­bied for provider in­clu­sion in the EHR in­cen­tive pro­gram. That dis­par­ity has re­sulted in a sub­stan­tial gap in the rates of EHR adop­tion by spe­cial­ists in be­hav­ioral health, he said. The bill now goes to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, where com­pan­ion leg­is­la­tion has been in­tro­duced by Reps. Lynn Jenk­ins (R-Kan.) and Doris Mat­sui (D-Calif.). □

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