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Gap in Adoption of Electronic Health Records in Behavioral Health Care

Mental health records contain medical prescriptions, session start and stop times, frequency of treatment, clinical tests, summaries of diagnosis, symptoms, prognosis, etc. HIPAA-compliant mental health transcription services ensure accurate records of patients’ mental health history and status.

Gap in EHR adoption in Behavioral Health Care

Recent reports indicate that while electronic health record (EHR) adoption is widespread among clinicians across all specialties, digitization of patient records is slow among providers in the behavioral health space. This prevents behavioral health providers from sharing patient information with other providers and results in less than optimal care.

Slow Adoption of EHRs in Mental Healthcare – Reasons and Implications

A 2012 survey conducted for an AHIMA study published in Perspectives in Health Information Management found that only 21 percent of behavioral health organizations used EHRs (www. healthitanalytics.com). On looking into the hurdles to EHR adoption in the behavioral health community, the researchers found a link between clinician age and perception of usefulness. Older clinicians were less likely to see EHRs as useful to their practice than younger clinicians, according to the study. Those who saw EHRs as useful had a positive attitude towards EHR adoption.

The study results indicate that to encourage EHR adoption in behavioral health, providers must view the EHR as a tool that will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their practice.  

In January 2019, FierceHealthcare reported on a new Bipartisan Policy Center study which found that most mental health care providers don’t use electronic health records (EHRs). According to researchers, there are two reasons for this:

  • The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009 did not make incentive payments available for mental health and SUD providers, as it did to encourage EHR adoption among other healthcare providers and entities.
  • The Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records statute of the 1970s requires substance use disorder (SUD) records to be kept separate from other parts of the patient file. In other words, SUD providers are prohibited from sharing patient information, the rationale being that unauthorized disclosure of SUD treatment could have a negative impact on a patient’s career and personal life. Also, SUD patients’ confidentiality needs to be protected so they wouldn’t fear seeking treatment. 

However, lack of EHR adoption among behavioral health clinicians could prevent care coordination. The main concerns that researchers highlight are as follows:

  • Not using EHR systems in mental health care can pose a barrier to developing improved behavioral health treatments, as EHRs offer a platform that can be used to assess the impact of interventions
  • Primary care physicians would not know about a patient’s SUD and associated treatment unless the patient reveals that information during a visit.
  • Not exchanging health information across medical practices will lead to incomplete patient data and fragmented or duplicated care delivery

Improving EHR Adoption among Behavioral Health Providers

The EHR is here to stay and therefore, the goal should be to find ways to increase adoption rates and clinicians’ attitudes towards the technology, say experts.

To improve EHR adoption among behavioral health clinicians, researchers recommend that organizations partner with other healthcare stakeholders to demonstrate the benefits of EHR use to clinicians. They should help clinicians better manage, track, and provide enhanced services to people dealing with significant behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs. This can change their attitudes toward EHR adoption.

The AHIMA study authors wrote, “Behavioral health organizations and professional associations should work collaboratively to mitigate concerns about workflow burden and effects on the physician-patient relationship and to demonstrate the value of EHRs to improve professional practice, efficiency, safety, effectiveness, and patient outcomes.”

Efforts must also be made to ease concerns that behavioral health clinicians have about safeguarding sensitive patient information while sharing it with other providers. The American Psychiatry Association reiterates that sharing patient information is necessary to generate a complete health picture of the patient that can be accessed and utilized in multiple care settings. Clinicians can make more informed care decisions and improve patient health outcomes when they have access to the whole health picture of their patients.

The American Psychiatry Association also points out that vendors of EHR systems can adapt their EHRs to the needs of individual practices. They can build data segmentation into the platform so that the patient and provider can control what information can be shared with other entities. This process, which is underway, can decrease the stigma that prevents people from seeking treatment for psychiatric conditions.

As behavioral health clinicians increasingly embrace digital solutions, HIPAA compliant medical transcription companies can provide accurate and timely psychiatry transcription services to meet their documentation needs.

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