Building the vehicle which will take us beyond interoperability to full integration is a complex task. But, as we saw in the first blog post in this series, there’s ample proof that the need is great – longevity is threatened without integration, quality of life is diminished and costs are needlessly driven higher. So, what does integration look like in practice? We can confidently answer that question because tangible progress is currently being made and we’re already improving clinical practices in behavioral health.

A few of those examples are:

  • Referral Process Automation – How often do you compose and mail a hand-written referral packet? Do you regularly communicate via a fax machine? In our digital world these modes of communication are becoming increasingly outdated and inefficient. Still, the vast majority of inpatient psychiatric hospitals mail and fax documentation to community mental health centers (CMHCs) when patients are discharged and referred to the centers. Not only does it slow the process, it makes follow-up difficult, delays the time to access care, drives up cost with duplicate testing, and increases risks of adverse medical/clinical reactions to care. That’s why innovative facilities are adopting HIT that supports interoperability. They’re able to automate referrals and securely send clinical information from the hospital to the CMHC where it’s integrated directly into the EHR workflow. And it doesn’t end there; updated clinical notes can be sent to the hospital and connectivity can be expanded to other community service organizations, including crisis call centers.
  • Integration with Acute Care Organizations – It’s not just psychiatric hospitals and community health centers that benefit from an HIT integration platform. Acute care organizations are using it to ensure people in need of psychiatric services get optimal care while reducing emergency department (ED) usage. HIT integration means faster and smoother transitions from the ED to a psychiatric hospital or community mental health clinic. It’s not only best for the patient, it frees up ED resources and beds which means acute care organizations reduce the risk of readmission penalties.
  • Community Mental Health Centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers – Imagine having a single view of a client across two modalities of care. Not only is it possible, it’s a reality. Efforts are underway to create integration models connecting CMHCs with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Not only are referrals captured, structured data is created to integrate medication lists, allergies and laboratory results into the health record. Using HIT, systems are in sync within each of the systems.  In addition, it provides the ability to conduct ongoing secure provider collaboration on a shared patient population.


The use cases above are evidence that the future looks bright because it’s already materializing. On our next stop in this blog series about the road to true collaboration we’ll take a look technology that can move us beyond information sharing.