Psychiatric EHR Data Sharing a Must For Quality Care of Mental Health Patients

Among the many common myths in the healthcare world, it is also believed that like other illnesses, mental health patients do not need antibiotics, labs and physicals. This myth has been further strengthened because of the way data of mental health patients are recorded in the Psychiatric EHR.

Even Obama’s Affordable Care Act could not make much of a difference in treatment of mental health patients’ data. Unfortunately, data entry, collection and sharing are given secondary importance for psychiatric patients. Our mind and body make us whole, then why is there a gap in dealing with psychiatric data and other EHRs.

According to a study by National Council for Community Behavioral Health patients suffering from mental illness have a higher chance of dying earlier than general population. This is mostly in case of cardiac and diabetic patients, who haven’t been provided with adequate mental health services after a surgery or prolonged illness. This study emphasizes on the issue of equal treatment of mental health patients and psychiatric EHR data sharing.

Adam Kaplin, MD, assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and assistant professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University has laid emphasis on mental health rehabilitation of cardiac and diabetic patients. Dr. Kaplin said these patients usually experience a depression spell after they have been operated on. He said, “As an example, whether or not you have depression following a heart attack is as big as or bigger than any other risk factor as to whether you are going to die in the year following that heart attack.”

Access to mental health records

Despite making progress in healthcare technology, particularly electronic documentation, there is a wide chasm in psychiatric patients’ data collection and sharing with non-psychiatric physicians. The lack of data sharing is a huge obstacle in providing quality healthcare to patients.

Although integration of electronic data sharing and patient care is considered as the solution for healthcare problems, but the adoption of EHRs in psychiatric facilities is quite dismal. Only 44% of top hospitals have adopted Psychiatric EHR, among which only 28% share their patient data with non-psychiatric physicians.

Reasons for lack of data sharing

Physicians have highlighted two main obstacles in sharing of psychiatric records, which is hurting patients.

Stigma of mental health issues in the society is the most important reason. Psychiatrists refrain from sharing data with non-psychiatric physicians from fear of stigmatizing the patient. Usually, patients do not feel comfortable in revealing their mental health history and medication to other physicians during the record making. As a result, patients have been harmed due to clash in effect of medication.
The fear of stigma also forces psychiatrists and behavioral therapists to avoid EHR adoption, as patients don’t feel comfortable in keeping electronic records. There have been incidences of data hacking in hospitals, which comprises patient privacy. Therefore, fear of data leak keeps patients away from psychiatrists who have implemented EHRs at their practice.
There is slow adoption of health technology among psychiatric hospitals because they are not eligible for Meaningful Use incentives.

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