Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Connecting Behavioral Health EHR to HIT Community at Large

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Behavioral health EHR adoption is on the radar of health IT developers already well position in acute and ambulatory settings. For behavioral health organizations and providers, the challenge of EHR integration centers of the difference in provider workflows and their use of health IT to document a patient’s care.

As value-based care programs extend the range of the care continuum, the ability to move a patient’s health data between primary and specialty providers becomes a necessity. The rise of accountable care, however, may be responsible for eroding differences between care settings and providers.

“As accountable care and the new healthcare environment that move forward in evolves, there will be less difference because one of the big things in behavioral health is that it is very much a team environment so that you have folks from all different specialties participating along with the patient,” says Melinda Wagner, General Manager of Behavioral Health for Cerner.

That being said, primary care and behavioral health are currently distinctly different animals. As health IT developers from traditional care settings to behavior health environments, they must come to appreciate what makes the two distinct.

“As we integrate mental and physical health together, there will be a lot of great lessons more learned by the physical side,” Wagner explains. “Your workflows are perhaps a little bit different, and the care planning coordination are definitely much different.”

For Cerner, this learning process has relied heavily on feedback from providers from both environments. ” We acquired a community solution a couple years back and that really thrust us into the environment quickly, so we have been gleaning information from the community clients as well as existing Cerner clientele who were primarily acute clients with behavioral health access about what was missing,” Wagner reveals.

As a result of the EHR selection of Cerner by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the EHR developer also faced a unique challenge in the form of moving the behavioral health organization from its own homegrown system onto an EHR platform capable of performing the same functions.

“They did have their own system,” continues Wagner, “so they had been automated for some time and mature in their thinking about how IT supports their overall workflows and patient care. We have worked with them for a couple years in looking at how our Cerner functionality would fit their needs as well as our overall vision for where we’re taking our solution.”

While the transition from one electronic documentation platform to another presents challenges, the greatest test for behavioral health EHR adoption remains interoperability with the EHR technology of other providers involved in a patient’s healthcare experience.

“It is the patient’s right to be able to expect that from healthcare and IT providers — that we will find ways to interoperate, that there won’t be one single system ever,” says Wagner. “That’s a driving force behind why Cerner got into behavioral health. Between interoperability and population health, we recognize to provide care for the whole person that behavioral health is integral to that.”

And the mental health environment likewise brings with it privacy concerns.

“We’re now trying to figure out how to make that compliant but still be able to share information,” Wagner observes. “We need to make sure that we protect the rights of those folks on the mental health side while also protecting their right to full and safe care by sharing information that needs to be given to other providers responsible for coordinating overall care.”

With patient’s road to recovery now taking a variety of routes, his health data must demonstrate the capacity for moving where it is needed.

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