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A voice for behavioral healthcare IT

November 10, 2008
by David Raths
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As healthcare information technology groups work toward the goal of interoperable health records, many behavioral healthcare executives, clinicians, and consumers are wondering whether their concerns are being heard. They fear that unless questions about the privacy of mental health and substance use information are addressed, behavioral healthcare records may never be fully integrated into larger networks.

Aware of the need for such input, one of the most prominent health IT groups, the awkwardly named American Health Information Community (AHIC) Successor, Inc., has included on its recently named board of directors someone with both behavioral health and IT experience.

Michael Lardiere, LCSW, director of health information technology and a senior advisor on behavioral health for the National Association of Community Health Centers, hopes to be a voice for behavioral healthcare as interoperability standards are developed during the next several years.

“Having worked on behavioral health IT in outpatient clinic settings and the managed care world, I have an idea where the ‘pain points’ are,” Lardiere told Behavioral Healthcare. “I am the only one on the board of directors with that background.”

“Having worked on behavioral health IT in outpatient clinic settings and the managed care world, I have an idea where the ‘pain points’ are.” —Michael Lardiere, LCSW

AHIC Successor is a nonprofit public-private partnership replacing the AHIC previously run and sponsored by the federal government. In a nutshell, it works to identify national health IT priorities around “use cases,” such as medication management or public health case reporting, and then hands them off to another group, the

Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, which harmonizes standards in that area. Eventually a third group, the

Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), certifies vendor products that meet those standards. (Click

here for details about the CCHIT behavioral health workgroup.) CCHIT is scheduled to begin certifying behavioral health electronic health records next year, but Lardiere expects more use cases involving behavioral health will be submitted to AHIC Successor next year.

“We haven’t ensured interoperability between behavioral health systems and other clinical information systems,” he explained. “Consumers and providers may have certain types of information they don’t want passed on to other medical providers, so how that happens still has to be worked out.”

Lardiere encourages behavioral healthcare executives to get involved with AHIC Successor by posting comments on its Web site. He also suggests they use their state and national associations to aggregate their comments and concerns, adding, “[Behavioral healthcare] IT leaders have to be attuned to what is going on and have a voice about changes taking place.”

David Raths is a freelance writer.