Medsphere Supports Renewed Call for Extension of Financial Incentives for EHR Adoption to Behavioral Health Facilities

Press Release | Medsphere | January 7, 2015

Senate legislation would reclassify mental and behavioral health care to more readily extend the benefits of health IT to all care providers

Carlsbad, CA—January 7, 2015—Medsphere Systems Corporation, the leading provider of affordable and interoperable behavioral health electronic health record (EHR) solutions, today joined the growing chorus of voices supporting the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2013 (S.1517). This legislation, introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) a little more than a year ago, would amend the Public Health Service and Social Security acts to define behavioral and mental health professionals as healthcare providers, making behavioral health hospitals eligible for Meaningful Use financial incentives for adopting EHRs.

Just last month, the Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Coalition renewed the call to extend financial incentives to psychiatric facilities. Following a December congressional briefing on how mental health issues exacerbate chronic health challenges and drive up costs, BHIT Council President Alfonso Guida said the proposed legislation is the right approach because it acknowledges that psychiatric issues are a component in comprehensive personal health. Guida and the BHIT Coalition followed up with a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Director Marilyn Tavenner and have vowed to push the issue forward with new vigor in 2015.

"It is imperative that mental health facilities implement EHRs to coordinate and integrate care across the continuum," said Irv Lichtenwald, Medsphere president and CEO. "The patient is a set of interrelated issues, not isolated challenges, and we need to stop pretending a mental health issue is not still a health issue. This effort to compartmentalize patient health just makes all of healthcare more expensive.”

Similar arguments for including mental health in the government push to digitize healthcare have been made in recent years. Legislation introduced in 2010 by Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) sought to extend to behavioral health the financial incentives for EHR adoption included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reconstruction Act (ARRA).

As the leading provider of open healthcare IT solutions, Medsphere developed OpenVista from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' VistA solution, widely credited with helping transform the VA into the nation's most efficient and clinically effective healthcare organization. Medsphere also partners with the federal Indian Health Service to develop and support a VistA-derived EHR solution enabling acute and behavioral health care across the agency’s roughly 400 clinics and hospitals.

Despite the current exclusion of mental health facilities from Meaningful Use incentives, Medsphere has implemented the company’s OpenVista EHR in several behavioral health hospitals. Currently, OpenVista is up and running at Silver Hill Hospital, a nationally recognized inpatient facility in New Canaan, Connecticut; the seven state-run hospitals that make up the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; and Houston-based IntraCare North hospital.

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