More behavioral health providers need EHRs, MACPAC says


The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission is developing recommendations for Congress on improving health IT adoption among behavioral health providers, according to comments made during the commission’s September meeting on Friday.

It’s exploring whether the federal government could use existing programs to provide states with matching funds if they give behavioral health providers money to adopt electronic health records and related technologies. MACPAC is also looking into whether Medicaid managed care plans could make direct payments to such providers to encourage EHR uptake and promote greater interoperability.

The congressional advisory panel has been increasingly interested in advancing physical and mental health integration, value-based care and improving health equity. But Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program won’t achieve significant progress on those goals if behavioral health providers don’t have the health IT to make it possible, said MACPAC Commissioner Darin Gordon.

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“Individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than those in the general population. This needs to change,” said Brooke Hammond, director at Texas-based Integral Care. “It’s possible by recognizing the importance and value of fully integrated care, truly weaving behavioral healthcare into the larger healthcare landscape, and adequately supporting behavioral health organizations of all sizes in the work that they do via realistic and sustained funding mechanisms.”

MACPAC’s staff will also investigate whether the advisory panel could recommend the federal government require EHRs to have consent management tools. That would enable improved care coordination and management for people who have received treatment for substance use disorder by allowing them to give other providers access to important information about their health, experts said.

The commission won’t recommend that Congress create new incentives for behavioral health providers to adopt electronic health records and related technologies like it did for other providers under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in 2009 because it would be too costly, experts said.



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