I'm not a guy who loves to fill out forms. Especially medical information, because chances are I've already shared the information with multiple healthcare practitioners who refer me to the next one in line…I remember filling out redundant form after redundant form.
It warms my heart to see my healthcare provider crank open his Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and have all the pertinent information for the visit on the screen. I receive my healthcare from a hospital-based system that shares an EMR amongst all its providers, and as a result, the aggravation of having to write down the same information over and over again and transport documents like test results has all but disappeared. This result means the EMR has been transformed into a true Electronic Health Record (EHR), a secure electronic sharing of data across my healthcare providers.
I know of a few ways this technology is being spread among multiple lines of care:
- Hospital systems share data with primary care providers, and specialists both in the mental health/addictions and physical health realms
- Mergers and acquisitions are helping non-profit organizations grow from providing one type of care (say, mental health), into multiple lines of care (primary care providers, dentists, social services, etc), bringing them all into the same EHR
- RHIOs: Regional Health Information Organizations have the express purpose of securely sharing health information
Physical health providers are screening more these days for addictions, suicide, and other problems they traditionally avoided because such treatments were out of their service line. Suicide screening is not a requirement for all situations, but for some, like addictions detox, it is. Lives are saved when a patient is instantly referred to the right practitioner with an electronic message. Healthcare providers are more likely to refer patients to mental health departments and clinics in their system, and for somebody in trauma, filling out forms is at the very least undesirable. One of the three situations mentioned above sets the stage for eliminating a lot of filling out forms.
Millions of people are served by nonprofit social services agencies for mental health/addictions problems, however, locations may not be convenient and some services may not be offered that you need. Mergers & acquisitions are increasing capabilities of organizations , and as a side benefit improving Information Technology (IT)...and the direction of IT is to help us fill out fewer forms because the data is already in the EHR.
The RHIO can be great help in getting health information from the physical healthcare provider to the mental health professionals when the businesses are not related. In some places, like Rochester, NY, state grants have supported Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) to enable this.
All this adds up to a new, vastly improved healthcare environment. A marriage between primary physical healthcare and mental health treatment is slowly being consummated on a grand scale, and the benefits are much more that simply helping me avoid filling out forms.