The occasion of another Behavioral Healthcare IT survey reminds me of a few things.
First, that the IT vendors that serve the field of behavioral health are a real resource to this magazine and all of you. These individuals and organizations have been generous in response to our magazine's requests for customer stories, technical details, and background information, not to mention participation in our annual IT survey-the largest ever.
And, they have also been looking out for the future of our field. They have supported efforts in Congress to extend meaningful use dollars to non-physician providers in behavioral healthcare. They have continued to invest real time and real money in efforts to anticipate and address likely future challenges, as you will read in the pages that follow:
How primary care/behavioral health integration and a transition to ICD-10 coding will change their software and your processes.
How to make health reform's vision of interoperable electronic health records work seamlessly, despite the need to preserve an individual's right to control the release of protected health information within portions of that record-such as a history of addiction treatment.
As IT vendors do their part, I know that provider organizations are doing yours as well. And, inherent in your part of the IT bargain is, almost inevitably, the organizational and personal discomfort that accompanies major changes.
I was reminded of this as I listened to a physician talk about the challenges of adapting to electronic health records. She was, after 20-plus years of practice, so used to charting on paper that the look and feel of the paper itself served as a trigger to her memory-as much a part of her work as the patient visit itself.
She reflected that in working with an EHR system display, she found that recalling the details of patient visits was more difficult-at least at first. The online fields and data, though neat and consistent, lacked the distinctive, recognizable (at least to her) scrawl of her handwriting. The cursor moved reliably, but didn't feel the same as her pen. In short, the details in the chart were just not where she was used to having them.
So for her, it's “ouch,” at least for now. Yet, after she masters this new habit, she'll join a growing number of healthcare providers nationwide who will be putting electronic records-and important continuity of care information-right where other providers need it.
The road ahead-to better integrate the healthcare system, improve care quality, improve public health, and manage costs-won't be easy. But everywhere, there is evidence of the efforts-large and small-that will get us to that destination. A tip of the hat to all.
Dennis G. Grantham, Senior Editor Behavioral Healthcare 2011 September;31(6):06