Behavioral health coordination requires better EHRs, instruction on data sharing

Participants at a roundtable held earlier this past summer on the use of health IT to provide better coordination for people seeking behavioral healthcare called for a redesign of electronic health record systems and more explicit instruction on the sharing of behavioral health-related data.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT organized the day-long event, which included representatives from consumer, provider, payer, HIE, professional association, vendor and health IT certification organizations, as well as other federal agencies.

In particular, ONC wanted suggestions on improving integration between primary care and behavioral health providers, and how future stages of Meaningful Use could support integration, according to a report on the proceedings.

With behavioral health providers ineligible for Meaningful Use financial incentives--something a bill introduced to the House in July proposes to change--participants stressed that providers need help to find funding for EHR systems and for IT staff to support them. They also called for clinical decision support to be included in EHR systems to improve care coordination on both ends and that clinical quality measures for screening and treatment be part of Meaningful Use.

Current EHR systems contain many features that don't apply to behavioral health, participants said, calling for vendors to create low-cost systems specific to their needs--especially the ability to create and support wellness recovery action plans (WRAPs). They called for the development of standards for behavioral health assessment tools.

The participants also cited the need to identify and share best practices from organizations that have successfully integrated behavioral health and primary care, as well as more education on both ends for the proper handling of behavioral health data, especially consent to disclose and re-disclose data.

Groups such as the Alliance for Health Reform and the Colorado Health Information Organization have been calling for improved use of health IT to improve care coordination in behavioral health. Other groups, such as long-term and post-acute care organizations, have developed coordinated efforts across public and private sectors to advance health IT issues, the report notes.

This is just the latest call for EHR redesign to better use users' needs and to improve care. Writing in the Journal of the American Informatics Association, Keith Marsolo of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center says the informatics community needs to lobby vendors to create systems that better integrate research and clinical practice.

To learn more:
- here's the report

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