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EHR Usability, Clear Benefits Drive Adoption in Behavioral Health

EHR usability and a clear return on investment are key for increasing health IT adoption among behavioral health providers.

EHR usability and clear benefits drive adoption in behavioral health

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- To improve electronic health record (EHR) adoption among behavioral health clinicians, organizations must ensure high levels of EHR usability and share the clear benefits of EHR adoption, according to a study published in Perspectives in Health Information Management.

EHRs have become standard practice in the healthcare industry, with clinicians across all specialties implementing the technology.

However, providers in the behavioral health space have been slow to adopt EHRs. In a 2012 survey, only 21 percent of behavioral health organizations used them, the researchers said.

This gap could hinder the development of improved behavioral health treatments, as EHRs can provide a platform from which to measure the impact of interventions.

The team also notes that lack of EHR adoption could prevent behavioral health clinicians from exchanging electronic health information across medical practices, a problem that could lead to incomplete patient data and fragmented or duplicated care delivery.

Researchers set out to investigate the barriers to EHR adoption in the behavioral health community, measuring the associations between perceptions of usefulness, ease of use, and demographic variables among licensed marriage and family therapists.

The results showed a significant association between clinician age and perception of usefulness. The findings suggested that older clinicians were less likely to see EHRs as useful to their practice than younger clinicians, despite both older and younger clinicians reporting a similar perceived ease of use.

The study also revealed that perceived ease of use and usefulness are significantly associated with attitudes toward adopting EHRs.  Positive attitudes tend to be correlated with higher perceptions of usability.

These results indicate that to increase behavioral health clinicians’ adoption of EHRs, providers must view the EHR as a tool that will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their practice.  

Partnerships between behavioral health organizations and other healthcare stakeholders may help to demonstrate the benefits of EHR use to clinicians and change their attitudes toward adoption.

“Behavioral health organizations and professional associations should work collaboratively to mitigate concerns about workflow burden and effects on the physician-patient relationship and to demonstrate the value of EHRs to improve professional practice, efficiency, safety, effectiveness, and patient outcomes,” the study authors wrote.

Some healthcare stakeholders have worked to establish such collaborations. In 2017, four vendors of certified EHR technology (CEHRT) partnered with behavioral health organizations across Massachusetts to improve clinicians’ access and use of technology.  

The initiative aimed to improve reporting capabilities and allow providers to focus on treating their patients. As part of the partnership, the EHR vendors would provide organizational support for no less than two years to ensure the systems were running properly.

“Now more than ever, we need to find ways to use technology to help clinicians better manage, track, and provide enhanced services to children and their families dealing with significant behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs,” Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said at the time.

“By investing in digital health solutions such as these, we can leverage providers’ electronic health records and ease the reporting demands on the providers that are treating these kids, allowing these organizations to place more effort where it matters, on day-to-day treatment and case management.”

The authors of the AHIMA study expect that their research can help organizations develop strategies to increase the adoption of EHRs among behavioral health clinicians. Closing this gap will only become more imperative as healthcare increasingly embraces digital solutions.

“Ultimately, the EHR is here to stay, and finding ways to improve adoption rates and attitudes around this technology will help clinicians, healthcare organizations, and, most importantly, the consumers of behavioral healthcare services,” the team concluded.

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