HIE & Behavioral Health Integration

Working Toward Behavioral Health Integration

QHN is pleased to be working with Mind Springs Health on a pilot to electronically integrate behavioral health information into the HIE.

QHN Working to Meet the Challenges of Behavioral Health Integration

Providers in the QHN western Colorado service area have long recognized the need to integrate behavioral health information into primary care to improve quality of care. With nearly one in five adult Americas suffering from mental illness primary care providers make frequent referrals for behavioral health services. Sharing a vision to improve the community standard of care, discussions on behavioral health integration were initiated between the local mental health and primary care providers as early as 2009.

Providers were concerned that they were not receiving follow-up on their patient’s treatment plans and prescribed medications potentially putting the patient at risk and impacting their ability to provide quality care. These concerns drove Mind Springs Health, a western Colorado regional mental health provider, to begin exchanging behavioral health information via fax, with authorized providers. However, as healthcare providers have embraced the utilization of electronic health records (EHRs) many providers have found that faxed information creates workflow, access, and security issues and they have urged the move to exchange this information electronically.

The electronic exchange of behavioral health information, via HIE, creates some unique patient consent challenges. This exchange is not only regulated by HIPAA but by special privacy protections afforded to alcohol and drug abuse patient records by 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2. Information protected by 42 CFR Part 2, which is any information disclosed by a covered program that identifies an individual directly or indirectly as having a current or past drug or alcohol problem, requires patient consent for disclosure.

The challenge for HIE’s is patient consent management, assuring notification of the additional consent requirement is “connected” to, and follows, the information in the system. The two Colorado HIEs, QHN and CORHIO, both see the integration of behavioral health information as a focus. QHN has made significant progress in a pilot project that has been established with Mind Springs Health and will begin the electronic exchange of information in the first quarter of 2016. In a recent webinar conducted by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), both HIEs shared their separate and unique approaches to the electronic exchange of behavioral health information. Details of the webinar were covered in an excellent article by Healthcare Informatics.
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