Posted on: January 11, 2018

While most discussions of health information exchanges (HIEs) concentrate on their use in acute care settings, including behavioral health treatment information in a patient’s comprehensive medical history can make HIEs a more valuable resource for both acute care and behavioral health clinicians.

That’s because when behavioral health treatment records are included in a patient’s medical history, practitioners in both disciplines have a more complete view of their patients’ overall health condition. That can help improve the quality of care patients receive.

Behavioral health records may include information about a patient’s treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse problems.

Additional consent requirements must be satisfied by practitioners before they can access behavioral health treatment data.

Additional consent requirements are defined by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). New guidelines went into effect in January 2017 are intended to make it easier to integrate healthcare services and access medical information, while continuing to protect the privacy of patients who have been treated for substance abuse or mental health issues.

More information about SAMHSA consent guidelines is available in this article.

Did you know?*
  • 9 percent is the rate of increase in behavioral health visits to the emergency department per year
  • 1 in 8 emergency department visits are for mental health disorders, substance abuse or both
  • 2 times the amount of time is required for behavioral health services at an emergency department versus the average medical protocol
  • 27.3 percent of patients with depression lack a diagnosis of their mental illness in their primary care EHR
Benefits of HIEs for Behavioral Health Practitioners

Behavioral health practitioners who use health information exchanges, such as Hixny, have already realized many benefits.

“I have found Hixny to be very helpful when looking to obtain the results of a patient’s lab work, imaging and notes from their providers,” says Mary Gallo, FNP, Director of Health Services at Four Winds Hospital in Saratoga, NY. “It has been great to obtain a patient’s consent and then be able to immediately access the information.”

Immediate access helps behavioral health practitioners learn if their patient has a medical condition that could affect their mental health, or if their patient has been prescribed a medication that could cause depression or suicidal thoughts, for example, as a side effect.

“Having Hixny integrated into our [electronic medical record] is saving clinicians and medical staff time, saves money and gives better care,” says Steven Shepherd, Mental Health Information Supervisor at the Rensselaer County Department of Mental Health. “They say having that kind of information at their fingertips—knowing the medications people are on, their lab results, certain doctors or specialists they’ve been to—helps in day-to-day treatment.”

The more behavioral health providers participate in HIEs, the more it will benefit patients and providers alike.

Says Katherine Alonge-Coon, LCSW-R, Commissioner of Health for Rensselaer County, “I really think it is essential for all behavioral healthcare providers to be a part of Hixny, to be actively transmitting and receiving information.”

Other Providers Benefit as Well

When behavioral health providers contribute information to a patient’s comprehensive medical record through Hixny and other health information exchanges, it benefits other healthcare providers as well.

Noel Almani, PA-C, a physician assistant in the Department of Hospital Medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, says comprehensive information can help clinicians make better decisions about medical care.

“Many patients who have behavioral health issues are at high risk for non-compliance,” Almani says. “When I’m providing medical care to these patients, they are often not able to provide a list of maintenance medication that a psychiatrist may have prescribed for them. When I can use Hixny to get crucial health information such as their medication list, diagnosis, and note about their last office visit, I can better maintain their emotional stability in the inpatient setting.”

In addition, access to medication lists can help doctors identify the cause of side effects a patient may be experiencing and avoid prescribing additional drugs that may cause adverse interactions with medications the patient is already taking.

Incentives and Money on the Table

New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), with support from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), launched the Data Exchange Incentive Program (DEIP) to help drive behavioral health providers to connect to HIEs.

Behavioral health organizations who meet the requirements are eligible for milestone payments up to $13,000. DEIP operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, with limited funding available and a deadline to meet requirements before September 30, 2018. To learn more about DEIP and whether you qualify, visit our article.

*Source: Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality Statistics 2010, EHRIntelligence.com: “Healthcare’s Growing Focus on Behavioral Health Data Exchange”

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will be impacted and unavailable—including access to the provider portal.
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