Embracing Health Information Technology
By Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator
As our country invests in the widespread adoption of health information technology (HIT), it is important to note the vast improvements this technology will bring to integrated, prevention-focused, health care delivery nationally.
We are already beginning to see an expansion of behavioral health services to underserved patients, more opportunities for patients to receive ongoing therapy through website portals and smartphone applications, and the ability of providers to make better decisions based on a patient’s current, complete health history that is delivered to them electronically.
Soon patients in some remote areas may receive real-time video counseling on a routine basis via their computers, tablets (e.g., iPads), and smartphones. Therapists may receive feedback from their patients and monitor their medical progress through Web portals. Interoperable electronic health record (EHR) systems may provide patients with information that allows shared decision-making with their clinician and home monitoring of patient-reported chronic health symptoms. Consumers may be able to select physicians, treatment facilities, and hospitals based on clinical performance results. EHR systems may help to eliminate unnecessary repetition of recent lab tests and medical procedures by sharing (with patient permission) test results with other providers who are involved in the delivery of an individual’s health care. In addition, errors that result from the manual entry of data and related treatment errors may be reduced, helping to contain costs.
Yet the full impact of a health system that opens the door to rapid, efficient, innovative care can only be realized when behavioral health providers are able to access and embrace HIT and EHR systems to coordinate care with primary care providers.
To support this effort, two of SAMHSA’s eight Strategic Initiatives introduced in Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA’s Roles and Actions, 2011–2014, will focus on HIT. Under the Health Reform and related HIT Initiatives, SAMHSA is funding activities in 47 community health centers serving patients with substance use disorders to build a framework for interoperable EHRs to support integration of primary care and behavioral health services. SAMHSA has also awarded grants to 29 communitybased organizations to launch therapeutic support through a variety of innovative technology platforms. (See HIT articles within this issue for more details.) SAMHSA is working closely with treatment providers, consumers, and technology vendors to identify and address the current priority needs of the community for advancing HIT.
SAMHSA is also testing a smartphone-based recovery tool—called the Addiction Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-Chess)—that features online peer support groups and clinical counselors, a GPS feature that sends an alert when the user is near an area of previous drug or alcohol activity, real-time video counseling, and a “panic button” that allows the user to place an immediate call for help with cravings or triggers.
These and other innovations that will support integrated and collaborative care will optimize prevention, treatment, and recovery outcomes and improve the quality and costeffectiveness of health care for all Americans. It is an investment the Nation must make in order to deliver the best possible health care to all of our communities.
Read two articles about health IT innovations in this issue of SAMHSA News: "Health Information Technology ... What It Means for You." and "SAMHSA Enhances Health Information Technology Efforts