As the island that once was behavioral health is drawn closer to the mainland of the U.S. healthcare system, thanks to healthcare payment reform, health information technology companies that serve both types of providers are also coming together in a variety of ways.
Thursday’s announcement of collaboration between Netsmart, an electronic health records developer that specializes in behavioral health, and Allscripts, an EHR developer for inpatient and ambulatory care providers, is the latest example of the trend.
“It’s amazing how separate the behavioral health world is from the physical health world,” Netsmart CEO Mike Valentine said. “We’re the largest provider of behavioral health IT in the U.S., (but) there is very little integration back into the hospitals systems and physician practices.”
Netsmart’s deal with Allscripts is not exclusive. The Overland Park, Kan.-based company is working out similar interoperability arrangements with other major hospital EHR vendors, including Epic Systems and Cerner Corp., Valentine said. “We have our annual users’ group meeting in October, and we hope to have lots of good stories with Allscripts and others by then,” he said.
In analyzing the movement to integrate behavioral health data, Valentine said, “what we’re finding is that it’s very easy to create the network within the behavioral health providers, [but] it’s really difficult to get the HIEs [health information exchanges] and the acute-care providers to open up to the behavioral health information if they don’t understand it.”
One goal for the planned Netsmart-Allscripts collaboration is to enable providers using Allscripts’ Sunrise EHR for hospitals to view records in Netsmart’s myAvatar CareRecord and vice versa. A second goal will be to integrate Netsmart’s behavioral health EHRs with Allscripts EHRs for ambulatory care.
In another example of the cross-care trend, in 2012, North Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner in 2012 acquired
Anasazi Software of Tempe, Ariz., a specialist in software for community based behavioral health providers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in February, Cerner demonstrated
what is known as metadata tagging to allow the exchange of health records between its behavioral health system and its hospital EHR. The process is designed to accommodate the more stringent privacy requirements of 42 CFR Part 2, a federal privacy rule that applies to the medical records of patients whose providers receive federal funds for drug and alcohol abuse treatment. Metadata tagging essentially can note which data need which level of privacy protection.
In June, the federal Substance Abuse Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in a day-long listening session
,heard testimony about possibly modifying 42 CFR Part 2 to facilitate the health information exchange needed with the advent of patient-centered medical homes and various provider risk-bearing payment mechanisms such as accountable care organizations.
The feds have been promoting interoperability between the two previously separate healthcare realms through multiple channels. Both the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in 2010, and another science and technology advisory group, JASON, earlier this year, recommended that the healthcare industry adopt metadata tagging to promote health information exchange and privacy.
Allscripts is hosting its annual user's group meeting
this week in Chicago.
Allscripts CEO Paul Black, a former Cerner executive, has previously worked with Netsmart CEO Valentine, who left Cerner as its chief operating officer in 2011.
“Paul and I are close,” Valentine said. Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn