Behavioral Health Meaningful Use Legislation

For those familiar with ARRA / HITECH and Meaningful Use, the fact that this legislation did not specifically include Behavioral Health organizations or behavioral healthcare providers has been a significant hurdle to EHR adoption and infrastructure improvement. Now, if you have read my previous posts, you know that there is an approach that allows Eligible Professionals that work at behavioral healthcare organizations to qualify for funding, but there are significant complexities and logistics associated with achieving compliance under this model. And reporting those metrics in this model is going to prove extremely challenging.

The proposed amendment clarifies the definition “healthcare provider” to include behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health clinics and substance use treatment facilities. It also expands the Medicaid/Medicare incentives through the following:

  • Expands the types of providers that are eligible for the Medicare incentives for the “meaningful use” of EHRs to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers. (Currently, behavioral healthcare provider organizations can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive funds only through the current definition of eligible professionals, which includes physicians and nurse practitioners that are affiliated with their facilities. The typical behavioral health organization has a limited number of these professionals compared to psychologists and other clinical social workers.)
  • Expands Medicare hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include inpatient psychiatric hospitals;
  • Expands Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities;
  • Expands Medicaid provider meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include behavioral and mental health professionals, and substance abuse treatment professionals.

“Delivering health IT to mental health and behavioral providers bridges the care for those with mental and physical illness,” said Murphy, a psychologist, in a statement. “To best diagnose and treat patients, mental health professionals need complete, up-to-date medical histories,” he said.

The impact this amendment would have on behavioral health care organizations would be, on one hand, very straightforward. This legislation acknowledges that behavioral health care organizations are an integral part of a network of any regional health care delivery system, and should be able, just like hospitals, to participate in regional health information exchange systems so that critical patient data can flow between hospitals and clinics and safety net providers. And the first step in exchanging data on a regional Health Information Exchange (HIE) is having electronic data to exchange. And that’s what the HITECH / Meaningful Use incentive program is all about – incentivizing organization to implement Electronic Health Records to improve the quality of patient care.