Geisinger to leverage EHR to ID guardsmen, reservists at risk of post-discharge behavioral health conditions

Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System is conducting a study to identify specific genetic risk factors that would determine which national guardsmen and reservists are at a higher risk of post-discharge behavioral health medical conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.

The study, led by former army combat veteran Joseph Boscarino, Ph.D., a senior scientist with the Geisinger Center for Health Research, is the first to examine mental health and substance abuse risk factors in this particular population being treated in non-Veterans Affairs facilities. It leverages Geisinger's electronic health record with in-depth diagnostic interviews.

"Until now, there hasn't been an easy-to-use tool to help clinicians rapidly identify PTSD in patients in routine practice or after a traumatic event," Boscarino said in a statement. "We think we now have a basic tool that can quickly identify PTSD cases and facilitate appropriate therapy. I wish my generation of warfighters had these tools available when we returned from Vietnam. Because we didn't, that is why I have been pursuing this research for the past 35 years."

Pennsylvania's National Guard is one of the top 10 employers in the state and one of the nation's largest guard units.

Mental health treatment has traditionally been given short shrift, and EHRs' track record has been somewhat mixed in this area. While including behavioral health records in EHRs improves patient care, these records may be more vulnerable to security breaches. Many EHRs, with their lack of interoperability and design functionality for behavioral health problems are a burden to the integration of primary care and behavioral health, which hinders patient care. This is troublesome; one study has indicated that while almost half of the U.S. population will at some point meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, less than two thirds of those needing such care will receive it.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many behavioral health providers have been slower to adopt EHRs, in large part because they are not part of the Meaningful Use incentive program.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement