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5/16/2011
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Behavioral Health Launches HIE

The Arizona service provider is one of the first mental health providers to launch a health information exchange to share patient records with care partners.

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While mental health providers debate whether electronic health records will interfere with the patient-therapist relationship and if health information exchange will compromise patient confidentiality, an Arizona behavioral health company has launched a Web portal to share information with its care partners.

"We think it might be the first HIE for behavioral health," says Justin Bayless, president of Bayless Behavioral Health Solutions , which provides counseling, addiction rehab, forensic psychology, and early-childhood development services in two outpatient clinics in Phoenix, as well as at local assisted living facilities, nursing homes, schools, and community centers.

Axxess Unlimited, a Scottsdale, Ariz., software designer, built the portal, dubbed Clear Care, to facilitate two-way, secure data exchange between Bayless BHS and its partners. Bayless BHS says the portal is available to anyone involved in mental health services, including healthcare providers, insurance companies, case managers, educators, probation officers, and skilled nursing facilities.

"It's really a collaboration-of-care tool," Bayless told InformationWeek.

Nearly two years ago, Bayless BHS made a decision to increase services to geriatric patients. In Maricopa County, Ariz., where the company is headquartered, geriatric patients who require behavioral health services are often placed in skilled nursing facilities, Bayless said.

"We noticed a gap in the information skilled nursing facilities received," Bayless noted. Since they are heavily regulated, such facilities need to report patient care to auditors and surveyors.

"They'd call us," Bayless said. "It was a scramble to find the information that we had."

Around that time, Bayless BHS started tracking its patients with a mobile electronic health record from Credible Behavioral Health Software, Bethesda, Md. Though all Bayless BHS clinicians carry laptops when they see patients outside the company's clinics, they still couldn't share data with other care providers.

Bayless BHS thus commissioned Axxess to develop a proprietary portal for secure sharing of behavioral health records. Clear Care imports and exports records in simplified comma-separated values (CSV) format for easy transfer, according to Bayless.

For privacy's sake, Clear Care keeps the behavioral health record separate from other EHRs. "We don't want [our record] to be integrated into a separate electronic record," Bayless said.

Besides, the federal EHR incentive program specifically excludes nonphysicians in mental health, such as psychologists, addiction counselors, and licensed clinical social workers, so it could be a long time before this segment of healthcare has many electronic records anyway.

For the next 10-15 years, the focus will be on exchanging data to deliver information pertinent to a specific patient rather than in building a comprehensive EHR, Bayless said. "That's so far away. There are so many providers out there that are still using paper."

The next step for Axxess is to build telemedicine into the portal so providers and case managers can log in and watch behavioral health sessions, in an effort to improve care coordination. Bayless BHS tried a telemedicine pilot a couple of years ago. "It worked well, but a lot of facilities didn't have the bandwidth for a reliable telemedicine connection," Bayless reported.

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