Senator Rob Portman’s Behavior Health EHR Bill Deserves Another Look

Senator Rob Portman
Senator Rob Portman

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman recently submitted a bill, the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act, that would add mental health providers to the nation’s EHR network, which essentially has been the catalyst for the surge in adoption of health information technology systems.

Mental health providers are not eligible to receive federal electronic health record incentive payments under the meaningful use program.

According to Portman’s news release on the topic, “Due to a disconnect between our nation’s doctors and mental health care professionals, Americans suffering from mental illness are among the nation’s most underserved and overlooked populations. By fixing an oversight in the system and making health IT the bedrock to fully integrated care, my bill will enhance care and treatment for the mentally ill and put them on a path to lead healthy and productive lives.”

The bill is backed by the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers. According Hubert Wirtz, CEO of the Council, “Adequate investment in healthcare information technology is critical to enabling mental health and addiction providers to implement systems that help them improve care coordination, provide quality care, measure outcomes and enable continuity of care between primary care, mental health and addiction services. Without this, community behavioral health providers cannot adequately track outcomes, engage in wellness management, and engage in cost-effective chronic disease prevention and recovery.”

The bill would extend the meaningful use program to behavioral health care providers such as psychiatric hospitals, substance misuse facilities and psychologists.

According to Healthcare IT News, providers currently eligible for the Medicare EHR incentive payments include medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists and chiropractors; under the Medicaid EHR incentive program, nurse practitioners, certain physician assistants and nurse midwives also qualify.

Senator Rob Portman’s bill was referred to a congressional committee on finance, and, as Fierce EMR’s Marla Durben Hirsch points out, it will likely receive little attention from this point forward. Having recently spent a fair amount of time consulting with a behavior health specialists, this is exactly the type of attention they are longing for.

Many practitioners have told me they would value to opportunity to qualify for meaningful, and the federal incentives would go a long way toward helping them improve their internal technology, tracking of outcomes and treatment protocols, as well as help them run more efficient operations.

Essentially, many of the very same reasons those who currently qualify for meaningful use have pursued it. As such, I believe that Portman’s bill deserves a second look.

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