HIT Effective, But Not Widely Used for Behavioral Health

Scott Mace, December 14, 2016

Behavioral health providers, in particular specialty addiction treatment organizations, often lack resources and infrastructure to implement technology tools that could improve care, survey data shows.

The use of health IT to advance behavioral health, in part by integrating it with general medical care is lagging.

Greater use would not only facilitate care coordination, but could fulfill the goals of MACRA and other value-based care initiatives, a survey of more than 8,000 commercial health plan products shows.

The survey, conducted in 2010 and published in the December 2016 issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, notes that behavioral health providers were not eligible for incentives under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), nor under the earlier 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

Moreover, behavioral health providers, in particular specialty addiction treatment organizations, often lack resources and infrastructure to implement health IT which could improve care.

Nevertheless, even in 2010, a significant minority (28%) of health insurance products allowed primary care providers to bill for e-mail communication with patients about behavioral health issues, the study concluded.

The survey found that in two areas, health plans excelled at digital capabilities. Ninety percent offered online provider directories, and 95% offered online self-assessment tools.

Seventy percent of respondents offered online personalized response to questions or problems, and 60% offered online counseling.

Only 25% of health plans, however, offered financial support for EHRs to behavioral health providers, and only 4.5% offered technical assistance for health IT needs, the survey found.

Behavioral Health Data Elements Often Still Lacking
The study noted that health IT overall still has many limitations, such as lack of standardization of data, interoperability between healthcare systems, and little or no inclusion of behavioral health data elements.

Scott Mace

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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