Increased electronic health record (EHR) use among behavioral health providers may encourage the integration of physical and behavioral health, suggests a report issued in January by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).
BPC, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, seeks to create policy solutions to some of the country’s more significant challenges, including those affecting the healthcare industry. The report, “Integrating Clinical and Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities,” examined how the current U.S. health system separates physical and behavioral health.
By encouraging or requiring mental health providers to use EHRs, policymakers could promote the integration of physical and behavioral healthcare. The authors point out, however, that the report lists policy options as “a starting point for discussion,” not as an official statement from BPC.
Why Health Integration is Important
Providers and payers are becoming more focused on value-based care, which emphasizes improved patient outcomes. However, many different factors may be at play in an individual’s health.
Because of this, health providers often need to get a broader picture of their patient’s status and behaviors. Often this involves better care coordination and information exchange with the patient’s other health providers, including therapists, primary-care providers, and other specialists.
This is where EHR becomes more important. Use of EHR solutions makes it easier for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers to share patient information. This helps each provider get a better picture of the whole patient, their needs, and their health goals and progress.
Barriers to Behavioral Health Integration
The BPC report found three general barriers to the integration of physical and behavioral health:
1. Insurance Coverage of Behavioral Health: Public and private insurance plans offer different coverage of clinical health and mental health services, and often do not offer mental health parity.
2. Behavioral Health Workforce: The shortage of behavioral health and addiction treatment providers restricts access to behavioral and mental health services, which holds back integration.
3. Federal Administration: Government behavioral health agencies and programs have many overlapping responsibilities and services. This lack of coordination or a strategic plan to address these issues has also hindered integration.
How to Improve Behavioral Health Integration
This third barrier, involving federal administration, is where the increased use of EHR can be most effective. Expanded EHR use among behavioral health and addiction treatment providers can encourage information sharing. This can close coverage gaps and reduce redundancies.
BPC’s report notes out that the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, encouraged the use of EHRs among medical providers, but did not include behavioral health providers or substance use disorder treatment. If HITECH funding was made available to behavioral health and addiction treatment providers, this could encourage EHR adoption and the resulting benefits.
Behavioral Health EHR That Promotes Information Sharing
As more behavioral health and addiction treatment providers seek EHR solutions, they may find themselves overwhelmed by the many available options.
BestNotes’ EHR and CRM solutions are developed specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers. The software features help you collaborate and exchange information with those who need it. Contact us today to learn more!