August 3, 2017

Whitehouse, Portman Introduce Bill to Help Behavioral Health Care Providers Adopt Electronic Health Records

Bill would help provide quality, coordinated care for Americans battling addiction and mental illness

Washington, DC – Today, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced legislation to help behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records.  The bill would extend federal incentives to adopt electronic health technology to behavioral health care providers, improving the coordination and quality of care for Americans with mental health, addiction, and other behavioral health care needs.

“Good care for people fighting addiction or mental illness takes up-to-date information on a patient, just like any other kind of care,” said Whitehouse.  “Right now, federal incentives to adopt electronic health records and better coordinate care don’t go to most behavioral health providers.  This bill would help fix that, helping the behavioral health community connect better with physical health doctors to get better results for patients.  Thank you to Senator Portman for joining me on this bill.  It’s an example of the smart, bipartisan work Congress can do to improve our health care system.”

“This common-sense bill would improve care for those receiving mental health and substance abuse treatment.  And it would help bring our behavioral health system in line with physician health care by enabling the same incentives for substance use and behavioral health providers that other medical professionals have received,” said Portman.

Since 2011, the federal government has distributed over $37 billion in incentive payments to health care providers to adopt electronic health records.  However, psychologists, community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, and others that specialize in treating addiction and mental health conditions do not qualify for this funding.  This has contributed to a substantial gap in the rates of adoption of health information technology between providers that qualify for federal electronic health record programs and those that do not, like behavioral health providers.

Whitehouse and Portman’s Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act would authorize the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center to implement a demonstration program that provides incentive payments for adopting electronic health records to behavioral health care providers. 

“Including records from psychologists and other mental and behavioral health providers in a patient’s electronic health record will help ensure that Medicare and Medicaid patients receive coordinated, high-quality care,” said Wendy Plante, PhD, of the Rhode Island Psychological Association.  “A complete health record that integrates medical and behavioral health can reduce adverse drug to drug interactions and duplicative tests, and provide necessary information to the emergency department at hospitals to triage patients more effectively.  This not only improves care but, ultimately, can reduce health care costs.”

The House has introduced companion legislation, sponsored by Congresswomen Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), to authorize CMS Innovation Center incentive payments to behavioral health providers.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921