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THINC receives grant to improve mental health through technology

October 11, 2010
by Press Release
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Fishkill, NY — Taconic Health Information Network and Community (THINC) has been awarded an $8.7 million grant to support better care coordination for mental health patients through the use of information technology. The grant is from the New York State Department of Health and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, offered through Phase 17 of the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law of New York (HEAL NY) and the Federal State Health Reform Partnership (F-SHRP), which support efforts that improve the efficiency and affordability of New York's health care system.

THINC is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to convene providers, payers, employers, public health agencies, quality organizations, consumers and local leaders to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care for the Hudson Valley community. THINC's HEAL 17 Mental Health Care Coordination Project will address care coordination among patients with affective disorders, including depression. Some 8,500 patients in Ulster, Sullivan, Orange, Dutchess and Westchester counties in New York will benefit from the project, which will coordinate care among 120 primary care providers, 36 psychiatrists and 174 psychologists.

Six patient-centered medical home primary care practices will participate in the project with THINC. All six worked with THINC in a pay-for-performance project in 2009 that led to their recognition as National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Level 3 patient-centered medical home practices, the most advanced level possible. Patients with a medical home partner with a primary care physician they select to coordinate all their care needs. The team-based care patients receive in a medical home is supported by the use of health information technology tools such as electronic health records (EHRs), electronic prescribing, an electronic patient registry and clinical decision support. The Hudson Valley has one of the highest concentrations of independent physician practices that have achieved NCQA Level 3 medical home recognition in the country.

The participating practices in the care coordination project, which include three large community health centers—Hudson River HealthCare, The Institute for Family Health and Open Door Family Medical Centers—as well as smaller and solo practices, already use comprehensive EHR systems with features that are designed to support the project and report patient quality outcomes. The mental health care coordination effort will include clinician involvement in development of new uses of electronic health records, improved ways to share secure information among providers, and a better approach to the delivery of care.

"This funding will assist THINC as we implement the technical architecture necessary to enable primary care providers, hospitals, mental health providers and other clinical sources to exchange data electronically," said Susan Stuard, THINC's executive director. "But the project is really about working with providers with high-need patients to discover ways to better coordinate care. The project will also give patients access to their health information and education materials about their health needs through a patient portal."

THINC has previously received grants from New York's HEAL program, which were used to offset the cost of EHR implementation for small and solo physician practices and to develop health information infrastructure in the community. Through the work of the Hudson Valley Initiative, a collaboration involving THINC, MedAllies and Taconic IPA to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care in the community, adoption of EHRs in the Hudson Valley is widespread, with more than 600 implemented in the past three years.

To read more about care coordination in the Hudson Valley, go to