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News and Notes   |    
News and Notes
Psychiatric Services 2014; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.657news
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Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association

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NASMHPD issue brief on HIT’s role in integrated care: Integration of behavioral health and primary care depends to a large extent on providers’ ability to share information via health information technology (HIT), including electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchanges (HIEs). However, federal incentives promoting use of HIT have failed to include behavioral health care providers among the physician groups targeted, as described in an issue brief from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD). The document is both a warning and a call to action: unless state agencies develop HIT systems that can accept electronic data from mental health providers while meeting all HIPAA privacy requirements, they will not realize the promises of integrated care: improved patient outcomes and substantial cost savings. The report includes recommendations in three specific areas of care delivery in which HIT will be critically important to integration: care coordination, patient engagement, and medication management. For example, to improve care coordination, federal agencies should encourage EHR vendors to include clinical decision support for behavioral health screening. To better engage patients, HIEs should allow information sharing with members of a patient’s recovery team who are not a part of the medical establishment, such as peer support workers. A key section—“Case Studies in Integration: What’s Working? What Are the HIE Challenges?”—details ways in which programs in four states have made innovative use of HIT to overcome barriers to information sharing. The report concludes with a list of four actions to help state behavioral health agencies lay a foundation for progress: convene key stakeholders in groups to develop a roadmap for full integration of behavioral health in the state’s HIE; charge these groups with identifying cases that would benefit from additional automation or standardization and with prioritizing steps to promote system efficiencies, clinical decision support, and use of evidence-based guidelines; use purchasing power to ensure that behavioral health information is integrated into HIEs in provider networks and in contracts for Medicaid managed care and state employee benefit programs; and educate providers and consumers about the value of including behavioral health information in the HIE and to improve their understanding of laws affecting information sharing. The 20-page report, Crossing the Behavioral Health Digital Divide: The Role of Health Information Technology in Improving Care for People with Serious Mental Illness in State Mental Health Systems, is available at www.nasmhpd.org.

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