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Five states receive grants for HIE development

February 13, 2012
by Nick Zubko, Associate Editor
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The Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS), which is funded by SAMHSA and the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), has awarded $600,000 grants to five states to help their respective behavioral healthcare providers find new ways to securely share medical records, including through the use of the health information exchange (HIE).

The states selected to receive the grants were Maine, Kentucky, Illinois, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

In Maine, the contract will affect 25 behavioral healthcare organizations and 200 individual providers. With patient consent, providers will be able to share information electronically with general medical care providers also involved in their patients’ care. According to Dennis King, CEO of Spring Harbor Hospital, an inpatient mental health facility in southern Maine, sharing information between the two communities of care has thus far proven very difficult.

“Because behavioral healthcare has historically been separated from general healthcare services, many [EHRs] have evolved without integrating mental health and substance abuse information,” noted King.

Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is partnered with HealthInfoNet, a Maine-based, independent, nonprofit organization that has operated Maine’s statewide HIE since it was launched in 2009. Under the contract, HealthInfoNet will build the technical infrastructure needed to facilitate secure EHR sharing. This will include “connecting” behavioral health providers to the statewide HIE and developing a secure provider only email service.

“This has incredible potential to both improve care quality and reduce costs associated with behavioral healthcare in Maine,” said Mary Mayhew, commissioner of Maine’s DHHS and a member of HealthInfoNet’s board.

In Kentucky, the Governor’s Office of Electronic Health Information (GOEHI) has said the state will use the funding to develop infrastructure to support the electronic exchange of health information among patients’ healthcare providers. The funding also will benefit CMHCs throughout Kentucky, introducing the ability to use the HIE to access records from patient’s primary care providers.

“This will lead to better record-keeping and tracking of patient history,” said Polly Mullins-Bentley, acting executive director of the GOEHI. “Ultimately, the overall health of patients will be improved.”

According to Stephen Hall, commissioner of the state’s department of behavioral health, developmental and intellectual disabilities, the funding will not only make access to information easier, but also improve efforts to integrate services.

“If we are truly going to address the needs of those with substance abuse and mental health conditions,” Hall explained, “we need access to our patients’ complete records, including their primary health history.”