Already a major provider of electronic health record and related technology to the behavioral healthcare industry, Netsmart Technologies signaled its desire to speak with a more influential voice on “the clinical side” of the industry by appointing Dennis “Denny” Morrison, PhD, former CEO of Centerstone Research Institute (Bloomington, Ind.), as its first “Chief Clinical Officer.”
Creation of this “C-level” position by Netsmart CEO Mike Valentine appears to demonstrate what the company calls its “obligation” to lead the industry by proliferating the use of evidence-based clinical practices, supporting coordinated planning and delivery of care, and the eventual integration of behavioral health and primary care.
According to Morrison, “It’s a neat opportunity to operationalize, to carry forward what I’ve been doing for years at CRI in terms of working with the clinical side to implement electronic records and realize the value of information technology.” He believes that his appointment reflects Netsmart’s recognition “that so much of the future about EHRs is going to be about clinical functionality and clinical workflows and that they didn’t have that voice and they wanted that voice.”
He also credits Netsmart with “sharing a vision of changing the way that healthcare is delivered,” and the capability to develop the tools involved to roll that out operationally—clinical decision support, benchmarks, databases, data-mining, and predictive modeling. But even these technologies “pale in comparison to what’s involved in changing and reshaping the clinical culture of an organization.”
There are two big reasons why EHR implementations fail, he asserts, and neither has much to do with technology itself. “One,” he says, “is leadership—if a CEO does not set the tone, the vision for the future.” The other, equally important, “is whether and how clinical people change the way they practice when they begin to use an EHR.” He says that it is essential for clinical-technology teams to “reengineer their process,” not just replicating what they had on paper when adopting EHRs, but actually integrating the capabilities of technology to help bring about better care and outcomes.
Morrison’s relationship with Netsmart goes back some years, since his days as a member of one of the pre-merger behavioral health organizations that became Centerstone, where he led in the integration of multiple EHRs into a single in-house solution. He has also worked actively on Capitol Hill, sometimes with Netsmart’s Kevin Scalia and others from behavioral healthcare, to foster greater legislative support for the extension of EHR incentives to the field.
Morrison says that he plans to work “at the interface between the clinician and the technical team” to develop solutions that match clinical workflows, promote integrated data exchange across the continuum of care, and improve integrated patient care and outcomes.
At a time when more and more behavioral health organizations struggle with the practical issues of integrating—often physically, at the facility level—with primary care resources, Morrison envisions a future of “virtual integration” using electronic health records, in which behavioral health and primary care professionals use a common, electronic interface to care for a single patient.