Senate briefing urges inclusion of mental health providers in HIT incentive payments

Panel discusses how the inclusion of mental and behavioral health in health information technology would improve coordination of care and outcomes for millions of patients, as well as reduce costs in the health care system

By Government Relations staff

August 2, 2011—As a member of the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coalition, APA participated in a bipartisan Senate briefing on July 20, 2011 to consider the benefits of extending financial incentives for adopting health information technology (HIT), including electronic health records, to mental health and addiction treatment providers and facilities.

Joseph F. Cvitkovich, PhD, and Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) (credit: David Kasamatsu)A panel of health IT experts and health care providers, including APA member and Director of Behavioral Health Care for Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pittsburgh, PA, Joseph F. Cvitkovic, PhD, discussed how the inclusion of mental and behavioral health in HIT would improve coordination of care and outcomes for millions of patients, as well as reduce costs in the health care system.

Dr. Cvitkovic touched on the impact of an interoperable system of electronic health records and information on enhancing connections among inpatient and outpatient treatment service providers, reducing the cost of expensive inpatient services along with readmission rates, and improving patient recovery.

Briefing participants addressed The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539), introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), which would allow mental health practitioners and facilities to seek reimbursement for purchasing electronic health record-keeping (EHR) systems.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted by Congress in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, failed to include psychologists and most other non-physician providers among those eligible to receive Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments and grant funds to adopt EHRs.

Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), a psychologist and leading House supporter of professional psychology, spoke at the briefing as well about the need for HIT systems that increase efficiency and are interoperable and integrated. He also stressed the importance of a system that provides a high level of privacy and security for confidential health records. Rep. Murphy cautioned that there are still hurdles related to cost and other factors facing HIT.

The APA Practice Organization continues to meet with congressional offices to build support for the inclusion of mental health professionals in the HITECH Act and to gain cosponsors in the Senate for S. 539.

 

For additional information, contact the Government Relations Office by email or by calling (202) 336-5889.