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Terry McLeod of ehrSIO ProjectsehrSIO Projects
A blog about the technical and software sides of mental health and addictions

The Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Big Bucks

Terry McLeod Updated: May 3rd 2011

In 2010, the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) market grew $15.7 Billion. Naturally, only a small portion of that was wrapped up in mental health and substance abuse treatment provider upgrades to their systems, but the figure foreshadows good things to come in this sector of healthcare.

pile of 100 dollar billsIf anybody doubts the effectiveness of pumping up the economy through healthcare over the past couple years with ARRA funds, think about $15.7 Billion in growth for the tiny offshoot healthcare market for the EMR. A lot of babies got shoes and rents got paid in the industry I hold dear due to ARRA.

Even though the economy was growing slowly, we can speculate that the Meaningful Use incentives that result in a Medicare or Medicaid "bonus" just for using computers to track a consumer's records helps explain the sudden growth in healthcare providers selecting new or upgrading their software.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are only slightly different from EMRs, so I generally talk about the EHR. An EHR includes the EMR, and extends that with capabilities to reach out to other systems of many sorts and share data. The EMR (at least when the distinction was first made) is strictly internal...but this is trivia.

The reason I speculate upcoming growth in adoption of the EHR in mental health and substance abuse treatment is simply because soon more organizations will be eligible to collect Meaningful Use incentives. Currently, behavioral health (for this conversation, include "mental health" in that term), is left out of the Meaningful Use incentives, so incentives must be sought by a professional, which means a prescribing doctor like a psychiatrist. This reduces the amount of funding that can be secured in this field.

Right now, mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities are represented in the effort on Capitol Hill to include them in the Meaningful Use incentive program. Recently the bill moved from the House where it languished in committee not too terribly long, advancing to the Senate. So, it's a few months away, but the result when this bill passes will be an upsurge in EHR implementations for mental health and substance abuse treatment organizations. Professionals who have been waiting for an updated electronic record to keep their assessments, treatment plans and progress notes will be pleasantly surprised when they see the new features that have become commonplace in the EHR.

Central Scheduling will be compliant with rules and regulations. This may not be a counselor's dream, but it certainly enables increased efficiency and decreases the time a consumer may have to wait to get help.

Communications about a patient's treatment will be spread throughout the treatment team without having to use "secret code" for patient information in Emails that might make it to the outside world. Emerging issues can be dealt with quickly on a team, because the team is better coordinated without having to go to a paper chart to learn what the rest of the team is up to.

A ton of software features have come into being over the past few years, and with this influx of funds into EHR manufacturer's pockets, even more wonderful advancements like Smart Phone use that are cutting edge will become commonplace. All this courtesy of Meaningful Use incentives. It took a while, but the plan's coming together.


Terry McLeod

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are a required part of our society, and improving business workflows with the EHR is imperative for the survival of your local mental health and addictions treatment clinics. Terry McLeod provides the bridge between the mental health and addictions professional and the technical world, as well as the glue to keep it working. Contact McLeod at and get more information from his website and blog,

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Be Grateful for No EHR Stimulus - John Lynn - Aug 9th 2011

I think the mental health community should be grateful they weren't included in the incentives.  Unfortunately, I think for mental health the EHR incentive money would incentivize adoption of EHR software that most mental health professionals would hate.

Instead, mental health professionals should look at various EHR options that will meet their business and clinical needs.  Doing so without worrying about government handouts will yield a lot better results.

I know when I implemented an EHR in a counseling center, they loved the electronic record.  No need for stimulus.

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