Massachusetts extends deadline for EHR adoption

By Janine Weisman
November 1st, 2016

Massachusetts behavioral health care providers have more time to fully adopt electronic health record systems (EHR) that connect to the state’s health information exchange via a network called the Mass HIway.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services recently announced that the date to connect to the statewide network for transmitting health care data among providers, hospitals and other entities and improve coordination of care would be a date later than Jan. 1, 2018.

The original deadline for all health care providers to fully implement interoperable EHR systems connecting to the Mass HIway was Jan. 1, 2017, in a law passed in 2012.

But the requirements are now being phased in over a number of years with specific dates determined by the size and level of provider organizations.

Large acute care hospitals, community health centers and medical ambulatory practices will be required to connect to the Mass HIway at specified dates between 2017 and 2019. Others including behavioral health entities will be required to connect to the Mass HIway by a date later than January 2018.

The date will be specified in the future and providers will be given at least one-year advance notice, according to an email update distributed to members of the Massachusetts Psychological Association. For now, connection to the Mass HIway remains voluntary.

“The extended deadline is important because the state was not prepared to execute the implementation,” said MPA Associate Director of Professional Affairs Michael A. Goldberg, Ph.D.

EHR systems digitally record medical history of patients and track how patients are doing over time. The EHR can display images, tables, graphs and the results of health tests. Most importantly, they can be shared electronically among different providers caring for the same patients.

Goldberg said MPA’s advocacy efforts surrounding EHR involved working to define what specific data would be integrated in health records and safeguarding privacy of patient data. He served on a Behavioral Health EHR Task Force charged with providing regulation recommendations to Secretary of Health and Human Services Mary Lou Sudders.

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative last conducted a survey of EHR adoption rates in Massachusetts in 2014. The survey showed a roughly 55 percent adoption rate among Massachusetts behavioral health and long-term post-acute care providers (LTPAC), significantly trailing the 79 percent adoption rate of physicians engaged in patient care.

Those results led the collaborative to launch the Quality Incentive Program to provide grants and guidance to eligible behavioral health and LTPAC organizations to adopt and implement EHR systems

“We’re seeing significant and ongoing adoption in the Commonwealth,” said Brian H. Noyes, senior communications manager for the collaborative.

Laurance Stuntz, director of the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech said in a released statement that the collaborative has granted more than $2.2 million in funding to incentivize the adoption of EHRs in both behavioral health and LTPAC organizations.

“We have 39 grantees statewide, and on the behavioral health side specifically, they manage 179 facilities across 64 Massachusetts cities towns,” Stuntz said.

“Additionally, this past summer we contacted every skilled nursing facility in the state and found that more than 75 percent have adopted an EHR and another three percent are in the process of implementing an EHR, up from the 55 percent adoption we found in our 2014 survey.”

Goldberg said MPA will continue to monitor developments regarding this mandate and will advocate on behalf of the association’s roughly 1,600 members.

For questions relating to the Mass HIway contact:

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