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Spreading the good news

August 1, 2008
by Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
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When it comes to technology, the behavioral healthcare field certainly has some catching up to do. That's old news, and this situation is not likely to change anytime soon. After all, mental healthcare and substance use treatment providers have a hard enough time finding funds to meet the overwhelming demands for—and on—services. Consequentially, as other areas of healthcare adopt new technologies to revolutionize treatment, behavioral healthcare providers usually don't catch on until years later. For example, as general healthcare rapidly moves toward empowering patients with personal health records (PHRs), behavioral healthcare providers are not showing as much interest in them, choosing to focus on their side of the clinical informatics equation—i.e., electronic medical records. (For more on this perspective, see Ron Manderscheid's commentary.)

But behavioral healthcare is not some IT backwater where innovations aren't to be found. Although the field sometimes takes slow and halting steps toward adopting new technologies, many providers are ahead of the curve (sometimes even beating their healthcare cousins to the finish line). For example, I recently learned that Verde Valley Guidance Clinic in Cottonwood, Arizona, is aiming to implement a regional health information organization (RHIO), a mighty task for any provider, particularly a community mental health center (more on this to come in an online-exclusive story at behavioral.net next month). On the other side of the country in Miami Gardens, Florida, Bayview Center for Mental Health announced last month a partnership with MDwebLive to offer online therapy services across the nation. And there are many other examples of behavioral healthcare providers using relatively limited resources to make momentous IT advances, and you've seen many of them in Behavioral Healthcare.

In fact, a key aspect of this magazine's mission is to be your practical resource on technology (among other topics), and we have some exciting plans to make our technology coverage even better. For example, next year we will detail the results of our first comprehensive survey of IT vendors with behavioral healthcare applications. The goal is to provide you with more information on the broad range of software solutions so you can make better-informed purchasing decisions. In addition, in our previous issue and this month's, we have devoted special sections to hot technology topics, and we aim to have more such sections in the future. Let us know on which IT issues you'd like to see more in-depth coverage.

So the next time you are at an industry conference and you hear someone bemoan how far behind the field is technology-wise, don't feel too bad. Behavioral healthcare providers are doing some state-of-the-art IT work in the face of incredible odds, and we're here to make sure you—and the rest of healthcare—know about it.

Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
Behavioral Healthcare 2008 August;28(8):8