Tags: Barack Obama | stimulus package | benefit | mental health | Tim Murphy

Mental Health Physicians Fail to Benefit From Stimulus Package

Monday, 09 Mar 2015 01:46 PM

Four years after a 2009 stimulus package aimed at setting up and streamlining the exchange of electronic medical records was initiated, thousands of physicians, notably mental health professionals, remain out of the loop.

At a cost of $30 billion, most of which has been spent, the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Program was aimed at promoting "meaningful use" of electronic record keeping by doctors to improve coordination between physicians in patient care, The Washington Post reports.

However, mental health physicians and facilities and nursing home and emergency medical services were left out, the Post notes, because of concerns over maintaining the privacy of patients seeking mental health treatment, especially for conditions such as drug or alcohol abuse.

Cost, too, is a factor, with Avalere Health telling the Post that adding those facilities would require another $1 billion.

While mental health advocates and professionals are lobbying Congress to extend the program to them, others, such as John Graham, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, told the Post, "The almost $30 billion spent on medical providers and hospitals was not well spent, so to take more money and throw it at psychologists before we have properly diagnosed why we didn’t get good . . . outcomes . . . we need to take a breather and reassess."

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., plans to reintroduce mental health legislation which, in part, would extend government incentives to mental health professionals. The bill states, "Make behavioral health providers eligible for HITECH Act technical assistance which will enhance HIT [Health Information Technlogy] infrastructure, facilitate medical staff training, and improve the exchange of health information between mental health providers and other health care providers.

"Extend Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for meaningful use of EHRs [Electronic Health Records] to psychologists and mental health professionals who provide clinical care at psychiatric hospitals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities."

Yet Graham argues, "The flood of government money into an emerging EHR landscape perverted the natural adoption of EHRs and has led to an installed base of EHRs that are not as effective as they would have been had the government not interfered."

He noted that the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) has requested a 25 percent increase in President Barack Obama's budget, about $75 million, and believes it should be reduced.

Mental health patients, members of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), also have their doubts. In a 2013 survey, about 22 percent said their mental health and medical records should not be shared electronically.

The DBSA's Greg Simon told the Post that over half of those surveyed feared doctors would discriminate against them if they learned they had mental health problems.

"My interpretation of that is that people recognized the value of a shared record and thought it outweighed the risk of discrimination," he told the Post.

Laura Fochtmann, professor of psychiatry at Stony Brook University Hospital in New York, told the Post, "The fact that behavioral health is carved out of this is unfortunate and problematic. The more we can integrate care, the better it is for patients."

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Four years after a 2009 stimulus package aimed at setting up and streamlining the exchange of electronic medical records was initiated, thousands of physicians, notably mental health professionals, remain out of the loop.
stimulus package, benefit, mental health, Tim Murphy
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2015-46-09
Monday, 09 Mar 2015 01:46 PM
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