The changes we’re facing in behavioral health and substance abuse treatment are breaking long-standing barriers within and between organizations. Because of technical advancements, we’ve joined other industries in exchanging client data…allowing us to treat the whole person. This is the most profound change within care delivery processes…at least in my lifetime.

I distinctly remember having to search my community mental health center for a client chart. This scenario was not at all helpful to the client and certainly not productive for me. The chart, if and when it was found, would be incomplete and scattered as we often delivered care in several silos (or should I say programs).  We were fortunate to have an updated medication profile to understand where med management was providing services and whether or not my client was considered compliant. These are long forgotten benefits of the electronic health record, but, in my experience, were beneficial advancements paved by technology. Like many of you, I went kicking and screaming to the EHR training room but eventually saw the benefit of technology within the care delivery space. Soon after, I became a major supporter of health information technology…a tech evangelist among social workers.

Today, I witness our EHRs exchanging data between organizations, giving organizations the ability to send and receive referrals, continuity of care documents and other data geared toward improving care. It’s an exciting time. I know this will advance us again toward a more efficient, safe and supportive system of care.  The success we have seen in our partnership with Suncoast and PEHMS have confirmed my belief we can change the way care is delivered in the United States.

I even love the name of the document…Continuity of Care (CCD).  Joint Commission estimates, “80% of serious medical errors involve miscommunication during the hand off between providers”.  Netsmart’s ability to support electronic transitions of care with affiliate service providers is new and many are hesitant. I understand the hesitancy, but cannot support obstacles to the improvement of care. There is secure and efficient infrastructures behind all we do to exchange data — whether between providers, across locations, or in our many Health Information Exchanges (HIE).  We need to change our methods (laws) and realize today’s care requires a new way of managing data.

These are exciting times to be in behavioral health and addiction treatment. Integration, collaboration and connectivity will be words that continue to penetrate the terminology of care providers.  Research, statistics and good common clinical sense support the need for us to continue to evolve with technology. Exchange of patient health information will lead to better treatment. This is a call to action for care providers to engage in the discussion of connected care and exchanging data. I know many will go kicking and screaming like I did…but it wasn’t long after I realized technology will support, enhance and improve care delivery.