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Electronic records—Future key to payment?

September 21, 2011
by Dennis Grantham, Editor-in-Chief
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At Monday’s NCAD11 seminar on electronic health records (EHR) technology, a sparse audience learned not only the details of qualifying for Medicaid and Medicare incentives for adoption and Meaningful Use of EHRs, but a broader hint about the role of technology in the future of addiction treatment.

Presenting on behalf of SATVA—the Software and Technology Vendors’ Association, Scott Taylor of The Echo Group and Marlowe Greenberg of Foothold Technology noted the latest news on Meaningful Use regulations, including word of a proposal to delay by one year the scheduled 2013 date for healthcare providers to comply with the Medicare MU program’s Stage 2 requirements.

According to Taylor and Greenberg, support for the one-year Stage 2 delay has grown among medical groups and hospitals concerned about the ability of medical providers to meet Stage 1 requirements on time. Under Stage 2, of course, these requirements would become even more stringent in 2013, paving the way for Stage 3 requirements to be met by 2015 at the risk of Medicare payment penalties.

The delay proposal is gaining steam in Washington, and according to H. Westley Clark, MD, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), “the delay will happen.”

Clark, who attended and contributed actively to the discussion, offered other insights about the growing role of information technology in the practice of behavioral healthcare delivery.

In response to questions, Clark indicated that decision makers have “no consensus yet” on the behavioral health content to be required in the proposed electronic “CCD,” or continuity of care document, that has been proposed as part of an interoperable patient EHR.

But, he added a January meeting will consider the issue.

He added that policy makers are also considering methods for managing the patient consent process for release of addiction treatment records required under the CFR 42, Part 2 federal confidentiality statute. While the method to be used is yet to be known, Clark asserted, “That can be done, and it will be done.”

Clark sympathized with meeting presenters who noted the sparse turnout—just eight individuals from a conference of some 1,200. To those present, he asserted his belief that information technology is rapidly moving to the fore in behavioral healthcare and that providers who fail to take the adoption of technology seriously risk financial losses in the longer term.

“People in this field don’t need to be worrying just about ‘how do I qualify for the incentives?’ said Dr. Clark, noting that the Meaningful Use requirements, such as interoperable patient records, are intended to provide data needed to drive better, more cost-effective treatment decisions. He made clear that electronic systems will also be the key to participating in future payment systems.

So, beyond decisions about whether to participate in the Meaningful Use incentive program, Clark suggested that providers consider a more basic technology question: “People here need to be looking at, ‘how am I going to get paid?’”

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Dennis Grantham

Dennis Grantham

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www.behavioral.net