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Not just an EMR, but an HIE for mental health

Last month, I asked if anyone has been successful with an EMR for mental health. I wondered if an iPad might make it easier for a psychotherapist to take electronic notes during a session without making the patient feel like the computer was getting in the way, because a desktop PC certainly would be a distraction. I also wondered about where mental health fits in the realm of truly comprehensive EHRs.

(Yes, I make a distinction between EHR and EMR here, since, while it’s important to have a complete medication list to avoid harmful interactions, there’s little reason why an orthopedist or dermatologist would need to know whether a patient had been diagnosed with a mental illness. The same goes for records of sexually transmitted diseases or any other condition that patients may not want a lot of people to know about.)

I got a partial answer on Monday, when I interviewed Justin Bayless, president of Bayless Behavioral Health Solutions, which just launched a portal to share patient records with other caregivers, insurance companies, case managers, educators, probation officers and skilled nursing facilities. (See my story about this in InformationWeek.)

EMRs do indeed have a role in mental health, even if it’s mostly administrative. “It saves therapists a lot of time because it automatically generates forms,” Bayless said of the Credible Behavioral Health Software EMR that Bayless MHS clinicians carry on laptops to treatment sites such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, schools and community centers. (That’s a quote you won’t see in the InformationWeek story.)

And segmentation of behavioral health information from other parts of a comprehensive EHR won’t be too much of an issue for a while—Bayless believes it could take 10-15 years—since so many providers still use paper right now.  Remember, psychologists, addiction counselors, licensed clinical social workers and any other mental health professionals that aren’t psychiatrists (i.e., anyone without an M.D. or D.O. degree) don’t count as eligible providers for “meaningful use” purposes.


May 16, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Skype for ‘redneck telehealth’?

Kudos to Barbara Duck of The Medical Quack blog for coining a new term: “redneck telehealth.”

A friend of hers had an outbreak of gout while getting ready to board an overseas flight. “He had called his doctor who was not set up with any of the new telehealth programs and software that is just now becoming available so I said ‘get your doctor on Skype and put your foot up there for him to see,’” Duck explained in a post over the weekend. “Obviously this is not a perfect situation for either side for a real diagnosis, but as the old saying goes a picture is worth a 1000 words and that’s what this would do.”

Actually, I’ve heard that because a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth 1 million words. Since laptops tend to have built-in webcams these days and a lot of 3G smartphones can transmit live, mobile video (hey, even some 2.5G phones can do so over a Wi-Fi connection, like you might find in say, an airport), why not fire up Skype or FaceTime or similar videoconferencing program and show your foot to your doctor? If you don’t like the term “redneck,” just call it a video call or an ad-hoc network.

Or are we expecting far too much by assuming that the doctor would one, be available on short notice, and two, voluntarily share his/her mobile number or Skype screen name with a patient?

I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.