EHRs Lacking in Behavioral Health Data

Electronic health records alone do not adequately capture behavioral health data, according to a new study from Harvard Medical School.

Researchers compared insurance claims to primary care EHR data from patients with a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder who were being treated at a large multi-specialty medical practice.

They found that a significant number of mental health diagnoses, visits, specialty care, hospitalizations and medication prescriptions were missing from the EHR.

  • Outpatient behavioral care per year: 60 percent of outpatient behavioral visits for patients with depression and 54 percent for patients with bipolar disorder were missing from the EHR, because the visits occurred offsite.
  • The EHR missed 89 percent of acute psychiatric services.

The culprits: Fragmentation of health care and lack of health IT interoperability.

An incomplete picture of a patient’s behavioral health and related treatment complicates the delivery of primary care, making it more likely for medication errors to occur, along with other negative outcomes.

Adopting a collaborative care model that fully integrates behavioral health into all aspects of care and embraces information sharing across specialties and technologies could help close that gap.