Harmonizing behavioral health providers and primary care doctors through health information exchanges (HIEs) is a relatively new concept in the health IT space. Arguably, the most prominent example comes from Maine, where HealthInfoNet — Maine’s official HIE — is the centerpiece of connecting these two areas of care through a grant.
Maine’s not the only state considering this process, though. The Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO), in addition to establishing a multi-stakeholder behavioral health committee, issued a report featuring strategies for including behavioral health in the state’s HIE.
The report came together after CORHIO held six meetings with different communities in Colorado. Collectively more than120 consumers, providers and disparate behavioral health stakeholders attended these meetings to develop HIE plans.
The report noted that there’s significant interest among consumers to access their personal health information (PHI) within a HIE. In fact, according to the CORHIO report, almost 90% of survey respondents agree that behavioral health should be commonplace among a patient’s health care continuum.
Concerns were brought up in the report as well, particularly over the privacy of PHI and who’s able to view patient data. While creating better health results is the top priority among providers and patients alike, health information cannot be compromised in data breaches.
“We have to be sure to strike a careful balance between protecting individual privacy with the need to have comprehensive information available for high-quality health care treatment and services,” said Amanda Kearney-Smith, director of the Colorado Mental Wellness Network and member of the stakeholder committee.
Another noteworthy concern, though not noted in the report, is that behavioral health information is not well assimilated into primary care electronic health record (EHR) functionality. Additionally, grants for developing that functionality are often hard to come by since behavioral health’s not included in the HITECH Act of 2009, much to the chagrin of some.
Although bringing disparate forms of care together is a smart move in theory, it begs the question: Are health information exchanges sustainable enough for this type of move? According to two reports, HIEs will not flourish without sufficient planning, a clear, completed market assessment and understanding by health IT leaders of the technical and financial requirements.