Electronic records can
improve patient care.
For Aaron Harris, PhD, a clinical health psychologist at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita, Kan., electronic health records are just one sign of how
integrated psychological services are in veterans’ overall health
care. “Mental health is part of the team,” Harris told participants
at APA’s 2012 State Leadership Conference. And having all of a
patient’s records in one place helps all members of that team.
Primary-care physicians know what mental health issues
patients are facing, said Harris, while psychologists learn about
patients’ physical illnesses. A quick scan of a patient’s record
might show that he recently had a cardiology visit, for example,
which may be related to his panic attacks.
That kind of coordination of care is one of the main
advantages of electronic health records, said Stacey Larson, JD,
PsyD, director of legal and regulatory affairs in APA’s Practice
“Electronic health records focus on the total health of a
patient,” said Larson, explaining that records’ “interoperability”
means that providers can share information with each other.
“An electronic health record is basically just a copy of a
patient’s records; the difference is it’s all of the patient’s records
in one place.”
Other anticipated advantages of using electronic health
records include more patient-centered care, improved quality,
greater efficiency and convenience and cost savings.
And while Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act protections apply to electronic health records, said
Larson, the records themselves also build in protections. The
technology can limit access to certain information to specific
users and track who has accessed what information.
To be eligible for financial incentives for adopting electronic
health records, providers must use them in a “meaningful”
way — to improve care, enhance safety and promote care
coordination. Unfortunately, said Larson, psychologists aren’t
currently eligible for those incentives. The Behavioral Health
Information Technology Act (S. 539) would extend those
payments to psychologists.
Of course, many psychologists are already using electronic
health records. Vanessa Jensen, PsyD, uses them in her work as
a pediatric psychologist at the Center for Pediatric Behavioral
Health at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.
Jensen cited a long list of benefits she discovered after
she made the switch. “The biggest benefit is coordination of
care,” she said. When she gets a referral from a nephrologist,
cardiologist or any other provider, she can review the patient’s
chart and get up to date — all without playing phone tag.