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.