For too long, the behavioral health community was left out of healthcare's technological boom, as only physicians seemed to be included in the government's plan to incentivize health IT adoption. Using EHR technology has quickly become the norm throughout the industry, regardless of specialty.
However, behavioral health providers have been slow to adopt, with only 21 percent of behavioral health organizations claiming to use them as of 2012. Some states also show significant gaps in health IT adoption. For example, according to the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, primary care and specialty care providers had an over 90 percent adoption rate, compared to just 55 percent for behavioral health providers.
Thankfully, the tide is turning for a variety of reasons and the future of behavioral health and EHR adoption looks bright, as evidenced by some reports that show approximately 60 percent of psychiatrists across the board using EHR technology.
Here are a few reasons why behavioral health is adopting EHR technology at higher rates.
Although nothing has officially passed in regards to behavioral health and EHR adoption, action is taking place.
Two separate bills - S.1732 and HR 3331 - in the last three months have been passed in the United States Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. Dubbed as bi-partisan companion legislation, each bill is still a ways from becoming law, but both are representative of the increased importance of encouraging greater health IT adoption in behavioral health.
S.1732 passed the Senate on May 9 and allows CMS to offer incentives to providers that implement behavioral health EHRs. The legislation offers funds to providers not included in the EHR Incentive Program.
HR 3331 amends a portion of the Social Security act to promote testing of federal incentive payments for behavioral health providers that use certified EHR technology (CEHRT.). Ultimately, HR 3331 will attempt to close any existing technological gaps between behavioral health communities and their physician counterparts.
With greater demand for behavioral health EHR technology, the EHR market has also expanded, giving way to specialty-specific EHR solutions, better equipped to maximize efficiency and help behavioral health professionals deliver better patient care.
Enhanced usability within a behavioral health EHR is important for a variety of reasons. Aside from the efficiency gains, behavioral health EHR systems with high usability marks are going to help ease the transition from paper to electronic that many providers will go through as they adopt health IT solutions for the first time.
According to a recent study published in Perspectives in Health Information Management, usability, along with a clear understanding of EHR benefits, are the key drivers in increasing health IT adoption across the behavioral health community.
Healthcare's adoption of value-based care has placed greater importance on integrated care between behavioral and physical health communities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this care model is critical for a few reasons:
- Primary care settings, like a doctor's office, provide about half of all mental health care for common psychiatric disorders
- Adults with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders also have higher rates of chronic physical illnesses and die earlier than the general population
- People with common physical health conditions also have higher rates of mental health issues.
One of the best ways to foster more integrated, collaborative care between the two communities is through the use of EHRs. Research from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine suggests that integrated primary and behavioral healthcare is increasing in popularity, both because it is better supported by value-based payment systems and because it delivers necessary treatment to those managing behavioral health disorders.
With both clinical and financial implications on the line, it's no surprise that behavioral health providers are embracing health IT solutions like EHR technology at greater rates than in past years.