Raising Awareness of Behavioral Health Technology Adoption

There is a great need for further integration of health information technology into our mental health practices across the nation. If EHRs will truly make a quality difference, behavioral health care is an area of health care that may be in the most need. An overwhelming amount of the substance abuse, chronic illness, violent acts, and suicides are related to the health of the mind. Almost everything we do in and out of healthcare is related to the health of the mind if you think about it.

In 2012, an ONC Behavioral Health Roundtable Report stated that only 20% of the surveyed behavioral health organizations had fully adopted EHR. This is in comparison to a 40% or higher rate which is often reported among the general population of health care providers.

You may have heard the stories about the US Mental Health System and how it has evolved over the years from an inpatient focused model to providing treatment in our communities. Each day in our communities we are likely to see the results of untreated mental illness. Strangers, friends and family are often impacted, sometimes tragically, by poor outcomes. Opportunities for the diagnosis of illnesses like depression often go unrecognized in our schools and physician offices. Mental illness is frequently overlooked or just ignored. Maybe we turn our heads because of a system that is not equipped to adequately recognize, treat, and or pay for the needed infrastructure to support this at risk population. Maybe we just hope it will go away, and many times it does take care of itself; but usually not in the right way. Severely ill mental health patients are more likely to die early from physical illness, suicide or medication risk, compared to those without mental illness.

What’s my point? This is an area in which I think we need to take a long hard look. An area which lacks the necessary medical infrastructure to provide proper systematic care and treatment, should probably be the area in which we prioritize early adoption of EHR. Interoperable HIT systems, patient portals, home monitoring devices may help to bridge the gap between the schizophrenic who is discharged from the inpatient psychiatric hospital and their primary care provider in the community. Better coordination and continuity of care is much needed in this patient population.

I am not an advocate for bickering about problems that cannot be solved, but I am an advocate for bringing awareness. I think we should be aware of the pressing issues in behavioral health and health care. I think we should understand that these provider practices are under adopted. And I think we should use this awareness to move to better support within this segment. This doesn’t take a new invention. It only requires us to adjust and refocus.

2 comments Add your comment

Cleveland Sasser

July 14th, 2013
10:59 am

Thanks Dr. Mack.
What are the top three specific actions needed in order for Mental Health in Georgia to benefit from healthcare technology?

Dominic Mack - Co Director, National Center for Primary Care, Morehouse School of Medicine

July 16th, 2013
2:07 pm

Thanks for the question. I can’t set the agenda for the state but I think we can all contribute to the solution. I believe we should change how we prioritize implementations from a systems perspective and begin to see behavioral health as a priority. We need funding opportunities that recognize the need and direct more support to these behavioral health practices. Improve policy and reimbursement to help sustain operations and their ability to support HIT systems.