HealthInfoNet — the state of Maine’s health information exchange (HIE) — has a reputation for setting a national example for patient and provider participation. Their reputation is likely to grow with the news that behavioral health has plans to connect to HealthInfoNet.
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HealthInfoNet seeks to harmonize primary-care doctors and behavioral health professionals, thanks to a grant from $600,000 grant from the Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS). CHIS received financial backing from Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and also the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The goal is to facilitate the exchange of electronic health records among 25 behavioral health entities and 200 individual Maine physicians. HealthInfoNet is tasked with creating the infrastructure to leverage data-sharing, which includes linking the behavioral health entities to the HIE.
Patients will have to give their approval to behavioral health providers for the exchange of such information, but this could be a stepping stone to help physicians in treating patients suffering from substance use disorders, psychological disorders and other mental illnesses. The idea of having a patient’s medical record on hand is a novel one, particularly in treating mental illnesses, but it will not be easy to connect primary care with behavioral care.
The biggest hurdles are both an IT and professional issue. The former represents a history of EHR systems designed for primary-care organizations without the incorporation of behavioral health functions. The latter encompasses the space between the primary-care sector of health care and behavioral health professionals, which was echoed by Dennis King, CEO of Spring Harbor Hospital, in a HealthITNews article.
Whether this will lower costs and reduce medical errors is unknown at this point, but bringing different types of medical professionals together through interoperable systems with the goal of better care seems like a positive for all involved.