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Surveying providers on IT

February 1, 2009
by Kevin Scalia and David Jaffe
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Four associations are collaborating on the project

Behavioral healthcare providers are faced with significant challenges, including the lack of a universal approach for reporting clinical outcomes and other key metrics, decreased funding for information technology research and development, and complex client security and privacy requirements. To uncover insights and trends in these and other areas, four leading behavioral healthcare industry groups are collaborating on a survey about how providers are using technology to address these issues and positively impact quality of care, as well as to determine where more federal and state funding is required to support behavioral healthcare providers.

The survey was jointly developed and is being conducted by the Software and Technology Vendors' Association (SATVA), the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, Mental Health Corporations of America (MHCA), and the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS). The 27-question survey was sent to the associations' members last month with responses due this month.

“The market survey couldn't be more timely as President Obama and Congress include HIT [healthcare IT] in the economic recovery package and focus on HIT in healthcare reform plans,” says Linda Rosenberg, MSW, National Council president and CEO. “It's vital that behavioral health organizations have their voices heard, and the survey is a great vehicle for conveying our needs. Bravo to SATVA for taking the lead and coordinating MHCA's, NAPHS's, and the National Council's participation.”

The survey is being conducted by Centerstone Research Institute, part of a large behavioral healthcare organization in Tennessee and Indiana. The survey is designed to gauge the status of electronic medical record (EMR) implementation, behavioral healthcare providers' involvement in health information exchanges (HIEs), and where additional funding could help them use IT to improve clinical services. The survey also seeks to identify barriers preventing IT implementation and the importance of software content. The survey's data will help behavioral healthcare software vendors create clinical-reporting and IT products that meet providers' evolving needs more easily and effectively.

In addition, the survey results will help generate awareness needed to encourage government funding and incentives to facilitate behavioral healthcare organizations' EMR implementation. The timing of the survey coincides with the new administration and staffing changes at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies that impact behavioral healthcare funding and policies. As these agencies look at fiscal stimulus programs for healthcare IT, SATVA, the National Council, MHCA, and NAPHS are trying to ensure that behavioral healthcare providers receive the funding they require to meet evolving IT needs.

“This survey represents an unprecedented level of cooperation between the technology and provider trade associations that will yield one of the most comprehensive views of the status of the behavioral health industry,” notes Dennis Morrison, PhD, CEO of the Centerstone Research Institute.

Kevin Scalia is Executive Vice-President of Corporate Development at Netsmart Technologies and Chairman of the Software and Technology Vendors' Association. David Jaffe is SATVA's Executive Director.

For more information about the survey, e-mail or call (877) 330-9870.

Behavioral Healthcare 2009 February;29(2):16