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Where health IT is really headed

February 01, 2016

If providers are to stay alive in the mental health field, they need to become adept in the utilization of EHRs. Meaningful Use of EHRs offers a path toward comprehensive, integrated care. One of health IT’s end goals—population health—can only be achieved when you take charge of the EHR, and you must now get creative to move in that direction.

Where do you start when simply logging in is a challenge some days and technology budgets are inadequate? How can you use your EHR to demonstrate improved health in the population you serve? Can you create profiling metrics? Here are a few ideas to help you start thinking differently about your health IT investment.

Create a simple tool asking the right questions

The barriers to achieving the ideal of population health are well-known, seemingly unmovable, and daunting: 42 CFR Part 2; insanely slow development of national data standards for interoperability; fiscal resources; clinical workflows and productivity. Can you create a straightforward tool that bypasses the clutter and gets right to the point?

1. Partner with local organizations and benchmark yourselves with a tool that is EHR-agnostic. Design a meaningful, custom tool and corresponding report. The trick to success? Collect data across the entire encounter to get the pertinent information you need to demonstrate through metrics that you are making a positive impact on population health:

  • Intake/Admit/Check-In: Ask the patient if he has seen a medical doctor recently, and approximately when. Find out if the patient has housing, food, safety, etc.
  • Clinical Treatment: Ask the patient to name his top two physical health concerns. Document evidence-based interventions used and patient-engagement strategies that were discussed during the encounter. Also track any time the clinical decision-support rule prompted the clinician.
  • Outcomes: Document whether the patient went to the emergency department since his last visit. Ask the patient if he feels his care is helping him.

2. Customize your EHR to incorporate the new tool in a way that requires the least amount of clicks on a single page. Allow every staff member to access the tool during each client encounter and begin to collect the data. Get creative in on how to best implement the tool into workflows. Aim to minimize the extra work by prioritizing the inputs you need and keeping the documentation to about one minute’s time within the encounter.

Share the aggregated results with your local partners, payers and others. This will concretely demonstrate that your organization provides a valuable service that impacts and influences population health. Collectively, your group of partners might see patterns of clinical success that you can build on or opportunities to tackle common issues with combined resources.

Use health IT to elevate behavioral healthcare

The average healthcare system spends about 3.5% of its budget on technology. What do you spend? Elevating behavioral healthcare to medical industry standards is critical to influence population health. This includes, at a minimum, following the healthcare industry’s coding and documentation guidelines, utilization of one standardized diagnostic system so we can communicate effectively with medical providers, and using the EHR to support evidence-based practice and clinical decision supports.

Here are some questions to ask to help you get started in leveraging your technology. Can you demonstrate via your EHR that:

  • Comprehensive diagnoses are being assigned for every encounter including medical and self-harm diagnoses?
  • Evidence-based protocols or clinical decision supports are being used and how often?
  • Evidence-based protocols have implications for outcomes?
  • Your consumers feel they have received a service that is of value to them?
  • You are contributing to population health?

Using technology today requires more than just data entry or running a report out of the EHR. You must invest in health IT, at all levels, to make it work. After all, demonstrating our role as integral healthcare providers is non-negotiable in the ultimate goal of keeping the population healthy.



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