Legislation introduced to promote the adoption of EHRs in behavioral health

Members of the U.S. Congress introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act to implement EHR systems behavioral healthcare.

The bipartisan bill is meant to provide funding and support to improve behavioral health providers' access to technology such as electronic health records, which are already common across physical healthcare.

The new act was led by Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin, California Rep. Doris Matsui and Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson.

Here are some things to know about the act, according to an Aug. 7 press release from Ms. Cortez Masto:

1. The act provides $20 million in grants per year over five years to adopt health IT through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. 

2. Congress is requiring an update report on the grant program. The report will include the number and type of behavioral healthcare providers that receive the grant, the ability of these providers to electronically exchange patient health information with other medical providers, and the clinical and non-clinical outcomes for patients.

3. The ONC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration must collaborate on behavioral health IT standards. These two agencies must create voluntary standards, providing behavioral healthcare providers with their recommendations for the use of technology and health IT systems within the field.

4. CMS, SAMHSA and ONC must create collaborative guidance surrounding how states can use Medicaid authorities and funding sources. The guidance is meant to encourage behavioral health providers to adopt interoperable EHR technology.

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