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Proposed bill boosts behavioral health IT

The bi-partisan bill encourages the adoption of health IT capabilities for behavioral health providers to improve care coordination.
By admin
Aug 15, 2023, 9:06 AM

In an effort to improve healthcare delivery, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), along with Reps., Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), have introduced a bill, the Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Coordination Act that would bring mental healthcare notes into the electronic health record (EHR).   

“Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it is essential that behavioral health care providers have the same access to the technology and electronic health records that other practices utilize daily,” said Sen. Cortez Masto in the press release.  

Behavioral health plays a pivotal role in overall well-being, but disparities in technology adoption within the behavioral healthcare sector have hindered seamless integration and patient care coordination. The newly introduced legislation seeks to bridge this gap by providing the necessary financial support to enhance health IT capabilities for behavioral healthcare providers and foster more coordinated healthcare delivery. 

Highlights of the behavioral health bill 

Among key provisions, the legislation: 

  • Offers $20 million annually in grant funding over the next five years to support the adoption of behavioral health IT through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). 
  • Mandates a report to congress detailing the number of grant recipients, what type of behavioral care they provide, and their capacity for a secure health data exchange with other healthcare provider types as well as the health outcomes for the patient, both clinical and non-clinical.  
  • Requires ONC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to create behavioral health IT standards.  
  • Sanctions the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), SAMHSA, and ONC to provide states with guidance on how to secure funding and use Medicaid authorities to encourage adoption of behavioral health EHRs and increase interoperability between mental and physical healthcare providers.  

The introduction of this legislation signifies a step forward in advancing the integration of behavioral healthcare services into the broader healthcare landscape. Incorporating mental healthcare clinical notes into a patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) will enable healthcare providers to gain a more comprehensive overview of their patients’ well-being, thereby allowing for a more holistic understanding of their health status.   

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