3 ways hospitals must prepare for 21st Century Cures Act

The likely passage of the 21st Century Cures Act by the Senate next week will change how new drugs enter the market and how healthcare providers diagnose and treat mental illness. Although it’s unclear how the law would actually be implemented, there are actions hospitals can take now to get ready for the potential changes, a leading healthcare policy expert said.

The House of Representatives this week voted in favor of the legislation that focuses in part on mental health programs, including integrating mental health services into primary care settings and expanding access to mental health treatment and services. Healthcare providers have long struggled with how to address treatment of patients with mental illnesses, particularly in emergency settings. Indeed, a survey last year found that more than 8 in 10 emergency physicians say community resources for mental healthcare are inadequate.

RELATED: House Oks 21st Century Cures bill’ Senate votes next week

Paul Keckley

In a post for Hospitals & Health Networks, Paul H. Keckley, Ph.D., an independent health research and policy analyst, wrote that hospitals can take several steps to prepare for the potential changes under the legislation. Here are three of his recommendations:

  1. Be proactive: Include pharmacists in care coordination teams across the organization, suggested Keckley. Make sure that all mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and counselors, are included in every care guideline.
  2. Update clinical decision support systems: Diagnostic tests must be updated in the system to include mental and physical health signs, symptoms, risk factors and comorbidities, Keckley wrote. The system must be able to prompt and alert clinicians so they can make definitive diagnoses.
  3. Reach out to the community: Hospital CEOs and board of trustees need to work with their local communities, clergy and educators to help destigmatize mental health issues, according to Keckley. It’s vital that patients and family know that medical, therapeutic and holistic treatment is available.