Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has introduced legislation to enable behavioral health professionals to participate in the electronic health records meaningful use program and other programs under the HITECH Act, such as regional extension centers and Beacon Communities.

The Behavioral Health IT Coordination Act of 2013, S. 1685, would cover clinical psychologists in public and private psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, and residential or outpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment facilities. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, of which Portman is a member.

With the Food and Drug Administration considering the degree to which it will regulate health information technology, the legislation includes brief language on clarification of the FDA’s authority: “Certified EHR technology shall not be considered to be a device for purposes of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”

For your consideration: Testimony on HIT Regulation

The legislation also incorporates the Safeguarding Access for Every Medicare Patient Act that was introduced but not enacted during the previous session of Congress. The language would require at least quarterly report by patient safety organizations to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology of the number and nature of EHR-related adverse events with respect to certified EHR technology. It also provides protections for providers using EHRs to take remedial measures without the measures being used to establish guilt.

Text of the proposed Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act is available here.

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