Electronic Health Records

There is considerable confusion regarding whether psychologists in Minnesota are required to have electronic health records (EHR).  This confusion could partly be due to differences between state and federal regulations.  Additionally, there is confusion regarding the definition of an electronic health record.

Currently, there are federal incentives and penalties for eligible providers and hospitals to use EHR’s.  Providers and hospitals can receive up to five years of incentives for “meaningful use.”  Additionally, those not using EHR’s and/or not demonstrating meaningful use by 2015 will have their Medicare payments reduced.  Psychologists are not included in either the incentives or the penalties.  However, Minnesota Statute does include psychologists and states that “by January 1, 2015, all hospitals and health care providers must have in place an interoperable electronic health records system within their hospital system or clinical practice setting” (Minnesota Statute 62J.495 ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD TECHNOLOGY). What does this mean?

Electronic health records (EHR’s), also known as medical health records (MHR’s), can have many components, but for the purposes of the Minnesota Statute it is referring to specific data about a client that can be exchanged with other data systems using secure transmission that is HIPPA compliant.  The commissioner of health and the e-Health Advisory Committee are responsible for developing the statewide plan and the uniform standards to be used for the interoperable system for sharing and synchronizing patient data across systems. The standards must be compatible with federal efforts.  The specific data that will be required for transmission has not yet been determined, but it is likely to include such items as demographic information, diagnoses, scores on screening tests such as PHQ-9, and dates of service.  Case notes are not expected to be included in what will be automatically exchanged.

In addition to the state requirement, there are other reasons to use EHR’s.  The systems can help with scheduling, automated billing, and tracking when ROI’s or treatment plans need to be updated.  Software can be purchased or data can be kept in an online cloud for a monthly fee, which can be accessed from any computer.  Some venders offer additional components such as sending out reminders about appointments or having portals on a website where clients can send encrypted messages, complete paperwork, or pay bills.

MPA started a task force in June to learn more about electronic health records and the upcoming requirements.  Members of the task force will be giving an overview of what they have learned about EHR’s at MPA’s Annual Convention on Friday April 5 (1:00-2:15 p.m.)  We plan to have additional articles in upcoming issues to help you prepare.  We will also be sending out a survey to members to obtain feedback on what members would find helpful.

Carolyn Parsons, M.A., Psy.D., has a private practice in Brooklyn Park.  She is chair of the Electronic Health Records Task Force.  Her website is www.parsonspsychological.com and she can be reached at [email protected].

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