In a new, landmark report on addiction, the U.S. surgeon general made a solid argument for the role of health information technology in improving the treatment of patients with drug or alcohol abuse as well as behavioral health problems.
Dr. Vivek Murthy's office pushed for greater health IT adoption and use by providers of alcohol, drug abuse and behavioral health treatment. But it took no position on a pending federal rule that could relax the current strict privacy protections covering the medical records of many patients receiving those treatments.
The report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, highlights a fundamental health IT dichotomy: Patients get better care if their records are shared among providers, but patients won't seek treatment if they believe their information will be widely disclosed.
An estimated 23% of the U.S. population age 12 and older—some 67 million people—have engaged in binge drinking. Meanwhile, 10.2%—about 27 million people—used illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs. And more than 40% of people with a substance use disorder also have a mental health condition, the report said.
Yet only 10% of individuals with a substance use disorder receive specialty treatment for it and fewer than half (48%) with both a substance abuse disorder and a mental health condition receive treatment for either, it said.
Social stigma often deters individuals from seeking care, Murthy said in preamble to the report.