APA participates in hearing on EHR certification program

New voluntary program intended to improve coordination of care.

On Jan. 28, 2014, the American Psychological Association provided testimony in a virtual hearing sponsored by the Health Information Technology Policy Committee (HITPC) of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). The hearing addressed a potential new ONC-sponsored program that would allow for the certification of electronic health records (EHR) products for behavioral health settings, with a goal of improving coordination of care across the health care continuum. 

ONC is developing this program as a voluntary certification for EHR systems that would be used in long-term, post-acute care settings as well as by behavioral health providers. Guidance from the ONC through a certification process could serve to demonstrate the suitability of behavioral health EHR products for APA members.

APA was invited to be a panelist for the behavioral health provider perspective and discussed the potential impact of behavioral health EHR certification from a psychologist’s perspective. APA provided information about the current landscape of EHRs in psychological service delivery, and identified potential future needs of behavioral health providers that should be considered in the development of an EHR certification program. 

The association expressed a concern that having a voluntary certification process for behavioral health information technology (HIT) could lead to two separate certifications processes for EHRs: one for primary care and one for behavioral health, thereby making integrated care more difficult to implement.  

APA stressed that it is important for behavioral health EHRs to be cost-effective so that providers do not shoulder the financial burden of paying for a certification process and to protect patient privacy and confidentiality. APA recommended that additional guidance related to security, confidentiality and privacy concerns of HIT functionality be provided to practitioners by EHR vendors as a functional requirement of the certification process. APA asserted that the certification process should also require vendors to include specific training on security and privacy for behavioral health providers. 

APA noted that a voluntary certification process could benefit psychologists by providing additional tools and resources to help providers choose EHR systems, and could further collaboration with primary care providers by helping psychologists select a system that is truly interoperable. 

The virtual hearing was led by the Certification and Adoption Workgroup of the HITPC, which is a federal advisory committee comprised of experts in both the medical and technical professions. The HITPC advises ONC on matters related to HIT such as certification, adoption and meaningful use of EHRs.

APA looks forward to maintaining an open dialogue with ONC and HITPC as this process moves forward in order to ensure its alignment with the needs of psychologists in professional practice settings.

Read APA’s full testimony (PDF, 58KB).