E-prescribing and a Behavioral Health EHR: Where to from here?

For the past several years Synergistic Office Solutions, Inc. has had the privilege and pleasure of participating as a member of the Software and Technology Vendor Association (SATVA), a group of vendors of software and other technology for the Behavioral Health and Social Services community. Last Thursday, I returned from our semi-annual member meeting…charged up with information about what is happening in the behavioral health world and full of questions about how all of the current events will impact SOS and our customers.

Standards for Electronic Health Records (EHR) for Behavioral Health were our primary discussion topic at this meeting. The community mental health world has long known that they will need to use EHRs to maximize the efficiency of their services and document the effectiveness of their treatments. State reporting requirements alone make use of an EHR a worthwhile way to simplify the lives of clinicians and administrators. Psychologists and psychiatrists in the private practice community have been slower to embrace the idea that electronic clinical records will improve care. The cost of the product and the time it takes to learn and use such software has been an obstacle for many organizations. While our mental health clinical record software has been around since 1992, we have many fewer users of that product than of our billing software.

Some states and payers are rapidly moving toward mandates for implementation of aspects of an EHR. FierceHealthIT, a newsletter for those working in information technology for health care, reported last week that MA BCBS will be requiring e-prescribing by January 1, 2011 for physicians who participate in their incentives program. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has developed an electronic prescribing incentive that will increase physician reimbursement by 4.5% by 2014 for those who use qualified electronic prescribing products. The National Governor’s Association (NGA) has provided a forum and support for states to move forward on Health Information Exchange (HIE), electronic prescribing and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) . At the federal level, a public-private partnership has been formed in the AHIC Successor, Inc. to move forward the process of developing a National Health Information Network (NHIN); and the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) has formed the necessary work group to certify a Behavioral Health EHR.

While the names and acronyms of these bodies may be new to many of you, they are working hard to assure that interoperable EHRs are widely implemented by 2014. Many in the industry consider this an unrealistic goal date for such comprehensive change, but many entities are dedicated to seeing successful adoption of this technology in the not very distant future.

How will the requirement for health care providers to utilize EHRs affect psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers in private practice? Will the expectations be different for private care providers than for behavioral health providers in a community setting? How do you expect these changes to affect your organization? Are you already using an EHR? Let’s talk about where you see this going in your world.

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