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Collaboration Can Aid EHR Use, Adoption in Behavioral Health Space

Research indicates that behavioral health clinicians may be more resistant to EHR use and adoption because they do not see the value of EHRs.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- Perceived ease of EHR use and perceived usefulness of the technology itself are driving factors toward EHR adoption with physicians in behavioral health, according to a recent study. However, there is still resistance to EHR adoption within behavioral health, which could be eased through greater collaboration.

Working collaboratively to mitigate concerns about workflow burden can help improve attitudes toward EHR use, explained a study published in AHIMA’s Perspectives in Health Information Management. Additionally, collaboration can “demonstrate the value of EHRs to improve professional practice, efficiency, safety, effectiveness, and patient outcomes.”

“Despite the advances in and wide availability of health information technology, many behavioral healthcare clinicians have not adopted EHRs,” wrote Stephen Odom, PhD, and Kristen Willeumier, PhD.

“Beliefs about both the efficacy of EHRs and the extra layers of privacy rights for behavioral health records may be partly to blame for the slower adoption,” the duo continued. “Beliefs about the importance of the patient-to-therapist relationship may also make it difficult to accept EHR technology in the psychotherapy space.”

EHRs could play an important role in behavioral health, authors noted. For example, behavioral health physicians could share data with other medical providers. However, EHR use in this area has not seen the same amount of growth and adoption as other medical specialties.

READ MORE: The Importance of Efficient EHR Use in Behavioral Healthcare

Researchers conducted a survey of approximately 100 licensed marriage and family therapists in California who were found on a state-level professional organization website. Respondents also had a mailing address within a 50-mile radius of a large metropolitan area.

Odom and Willeumier also determined that older clinicians do not find the EHR as useful as younger clinicians do, even though older clinicians similar report that it is easy to use an EHR.

“A statistically significant relationship was found between the age of the behavioral health clinician and the perceived usefulness of EHRs,” the duo wrote. “Older clinicians were less likely to find EHRs useful in their professional practice, compared with younger clinicians.”

“It appears that older clinicians believe that the EHR is easy enough to use but do not find it useful to them,” the team continued. “What is not addressed in the finding is why older clinicians do not think the EHR is useful.”

Additionally, there was no statistically significant relationship between either age or years in practice and the attitude toward use of EHRs.

READ MORE: Healthcare’s Growing Focus on Behavioral Health Data Exchange

Researchers posited that it could be worth further investigation into self-reported ease of use with EHRs, as older clinicians may actually have more difficulty with the technology than they are reporting.

“The resulting finding that the EHR is not useful may instead be explained, at least in part, by a lack of ability or task mastery that the clinician either is not aware of or is hiding,” Odom and Willeumier stated.

Citing earlier studies, the duo stressed that attitudes and perceptions of EHRs and their overall usefulness are essential in facilitating EHR adoption and acceptance. One study found a 17 percent EHR adoption rate in small office settings, with 20 percent saying that they were hesitant about the ease of use and reliability of the system.

Another study that focused on hospitals determined that the perception of EHR system usefulness and EHR ease of use were the most common facilitating factors.

“Not only has behavioral health been a late adopter of EHRs institutionally speaking, some authors have suggested that these clinicians may be resistant to adoption as well,” the researchers concluded. “This work suggests that to improve the adoption of EHRs among behavioral health clinicians, the EHR must be viewed as useful.”

READ MORE: Patient EHR Data Contained in CT HIE to Aid in Suicide Prevention

While behavioral healthcare has been commonly noted for lagging behind in EHR use and adoption, there has been a push by some providers to change that.

Examining and understanding the connections between an individual’s physical and mental health helped fuel LifeWorks Northwest’s (LifeWorks NW) decision to adopt the Carequality interoperability framework through its Netsmart EHR earlier this year.

LifeWorks NW Vice President of Operations Katy Beveridge explained that it was important to focus on improving client outcomes.

“Because an individual’s wellbeing and state of overall health are integrally connected, we wanted to find a better way to open communication pathways across the healthcare continuum, so there is transparency in serving a client’s total healthcare needs,” she said.

The Oregon-based provider would also have access to real-time health data through the change, as well as access to actionable analytics to support its integrated network. Additionally, staff members would be able to track, manage, and query patient clinical data including complete medication lists, problems, and diagnostic data.

“We have a keen understanding that there are deep connections between physical and mental health, which ultimately can impact a person’s quality of life,” LifeWorks NW CEO Mary Monnat stated. “That’s why we are always seeking innovations like Carequality powered by Netsmart to help us lead the way and provide the strongest possible care that benefits everyone from our clients and the greater community to our partner healthcare providers.”

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