Posted By Hope Alfaro On June 13, 2017
After the United States House narrowly passed the American Health Care Act, numerous mental health and behavioral health providers are concerned for the effects of healthcare reform on the ability to access quality mental health services for vulnerable populations.
Some of the most vulnerable citizens in the United States are persons with serious mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities and substance use disorders. The Affordable Care Act included treatment for mental health and substance abuse conditions as part of its Essential Health Benefits, declaring it was something all insurers would need to cover.
This dramatically increased access not just to insurance, but specifically to mental health treatment, for millions of Americans, especially those who accessed insurance through the Medicaid expansion, explains the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it is a relevant time for Behavioral Health providers to look at and take steps towards improving quality, despite the changing landscape of health policy. For many providers, the decision has already been made in individual states like North Carolina that connection to a state or regional HIE will be required for receiving payments for Medicaid. For providers not under legal requirements to connect, the benefit of connecting to an HIE through use of a certified electronic health record (EHR) is still sage wisdom. If the Department of Health and Human Services has its way, it will be adding behavioral health providers to the EHR programs for Meaningful Use.
The addition of an EHR does not have to mean wholesale change of workflows and slowing down of provider time. The clinical quality measures required would already be included in a certified system and workflows should be customizable by any EHR solution designed for behavioral health. Additionally, normally lengthy paperwork such as Group Notes and Shift Notes can be dramatically reduced while improving accuracy with the right system.
Improved data and clinical documentation can mean more efficiency while maintaining quality and the ability to help more people in need. EHRs with options specific to behavioral health can mean a world of difference for even small behavioral health providers who are not attached to a larger primary care provider like a Federally Qualified Health Center.