Mental health providers look for federal incentives to go digital, too

March 20, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

Kaiser Health News

Many health care providers see great potential benefit to integrating patients’ mental and physical health records, and making those records accessible to all providers through a unified system. So far, however, federal subsidies offered since 2009 to promote electronic health record-sharing have not been available to mental health clinics, psychologists, or psychiatric hospitals. Obstacles to congressional action on this disparity have included the additional cost of expanding the program, and concerns about confidentiality for mental health patients and their families. Furthermore, the existing system of record-sharing is considered unsatisfactory by many groups, including the American Medical Association, leading some to argue for improving it before adding mental health records into the mix. In 2013, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance surveyed its members, and found that a majority of respondents supported combining mental and medical health records — even though a majority also feared that doctors might then discriminate against them. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is scheduled to issue new information-sharing standards soon, which mental health advocates hope will help their efforts.

Spark Extra! Read about research suggesting that electronic health records may be an important tool for suicide prevention in health care settings.