Posted By Monique Dever On November 30, 2017

Will Mental Health Providers get EHR Incentives?

EHR Incentives for Behavioral Health

H.R. 3331, a bill to “amend title XI of the Social Security Act to promote testing of incentive payments for behavioral health providers for adoption and use of certified electronic health record technology” was introduced to Congress on July 20, 2017, by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA). Additionally, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) recently introduced legislation that included incentives to digitize behavioral health records, prompted primarily by the urgent need to combat the public health opioid crisis. Isn’t it time for behavioral health providers to receive EHR incentives?


Over the past several years the healthcare sector of physical health agencies (public health departments, community health centers, medical practices, and hospitals) has already been through the rigorous-but-invaluable adoption of electronic health records software, and these agencies are successfully working towards interoperability. This was mostly due to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) providing substantial incentives to those who complied with the Meaningful Use requirements. At the onset of this incentive program, the health care industry seemed eons behind other industries such as finance, which had completely and successfully transitioned into the electronic world. Today, it seems unfair that the behavioral health sector has been left behind.


A proposed Bill H.R. 3331, if passed, would finally align mental health agencies with the medical world.  If passed, the incentives would be extended to community mental health centers, public or private psychiatric hospitals, accredited residential or outpatient mental health treatment facilities, accredited substance abuse treatment sites, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers.  Incentives would be paid out if the qualified behavioral health agencies adopt a certified EHR and use the technology “to improve the quality and coordination of care through the electronic exchange of health information.”

But according to Skopos Labs, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm used to predict the likeliness of a bill passing, there is only a 1% chance of H.R. 3331 being enacted.  This would be unfortunate for two reasons.  First, as noted previously, there is a high, and increasing need for mental health services.  Having mental health agencies electronically connected to the patients overall health care, all providers would get a much more complete picture of a patient’s needs. And second, without the incentives, numerous treatment facilities would lack the funding to adopt the required technology on their own.

It is clear, that the use of EHRs by mental health care givers could help fight public health crises, such as the opioid epidemic now in full swing. And it certainly would improve patient care as it integrates with patients’ overall healthcare. So will mental health providers get the same incentives to adopt electronic health records? Let’s hope so and soon!

About Monique Dever

Monique integrates research and networking with her passion for health and well-being to provide important, up-to-date news, resources and current events to the public health communities. She is the Marketing Executive for Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.