EHRA/ECRI Behavioral Health Workgroup

Improving technology to ultimately help providers better address patients’ behavioral health needs

A Partnership focus for 2020 includes collaboration with HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA) to identify ways to optimize health IT for the safe integration of behavioral health with primary care.

Over the past ten years with a focus on patient centered care, the goal has been to recognize and treat medical and behavioral health conditions in a more integrated manner.

One response to behavioral healthcare demands is primary care providers working more closely with behavioral health providers. This can be facilitated through technology yet requires constant testing and refinement. Importantly, some current challenges that have been reported include (1) lack of standards for terminology that is used in documentation, (2) lack of integrated screening tools (3) difficulties with segregation of records and (4) disruptions in effective sharing of information between providers.

While technology cannot solve every issue, it can be enhanced to better facilitate integrated care.

This leads us to the question of, what are appropriate ways to enhance this type of integration for long-term success so both systems are aligned and able to speak the same language?

The current workgroup

The Partnership is working in collaboration with the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA) to address Optimizing Health IT for the Safe Integration of Behavioral Health and Primary Care. Members from EHRA’s component organizations and ECRI's internal Partnership team have been meeting virtually since January to focus on this project in a multistage approach and will continue meeting over the next few months to derive safety recommendations and suggested implementations.

The workgroup is using a three-prong approach to investigate specific areas where technology can enhance integration, including:
1. Screening (incorporating available validated tools, templates, and telehealth)
2. Documentation (ensuring necessary data fields, accesses, and formats are available)
3. Sharing (enabling sharing while ensuring compliance with federal, state, and patient restrictions)

As there is no one-size-fits-all approach to enhancing and enabling technological innovation, the Partnership seeks safe improvements that will better integrate these historically separate systems.

The goal is to release recommendations to provide and identify where developers can enhance technology in the near term (1 to 3 years) that will address unified incorporation of terminology, the ability to address regulations, and facilitate effective sharing of information through interoperable platforms to enhance patient care.

To learn more, contact hit@ecri.org.

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