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Stranger in a Familiar Land

September 1, 2009
by Richard L. Peck, Editor-in-Chief
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Having just assumed the Editor-in-Chief's role from my friend and colleague (now in sales) Doug Edwards, I am interested to see how the world of behavioral healthcare looks and feels these days, as compared with around 10 years ago, when I previously edited this magazine. I also edited at that time a magazine called Long-Term Living, formerly Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management, and did so until just recently. In reflecting on those two fields, an old saying comes to mind: Some things never change.

For the 18 years I edited Long-Term Living, we covered information technology regularly. All during that time I never ceased being perplexed by the disjuncture between the largely small, privately owned vendors continually offering products of ever-increasing sophistication and their highly cautious, fiscally challenged customers who, with some exceptions, were typically slow to adapt to the new technologies.

Sound familiar?

I've noticed something else. Like long-term care, behavioral healthcare has been left out of the party when it comes to society's recognition and respect. It has been very difficult for both fields to achieve the financial support that they need from government. The most recent evidence of this: the electronic health record (EHR), with regard to providers' eligibility for federal incentive funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the slow-moving vendor certification standards that will help make it possible. The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) is working on behavioral and long-term care certification standards for next year, but vendors in both fields are pushing Washington to make the ARRA money available when the time comes.

In fact, quite a few behavioral IT vendors I've spoken with have noted they've been marching, if not arm-in-arm, at least in close-order file with their long-term care counterparts through the halls of Washington for the cause. Moreover, they are asking customers to make their own voices heard - to speak out on behalf of their clients and residents, some of the most vulnerable members of our society, who have been inexplicably but routinely left out of healthcare's Big Picture when it comes to Washington policymaking.

With any justice, IT might soon become the focal point of the drive toward social recognition for both fields.

Richard L. Peck, Editor-in-Chief Behavioral Healthcare 2009 September;29(8):6