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Experiences and Perspective from #NatCon16

Posted on March 9, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The past couple days I’ve been enjoying a new experience at the National Council for Behavioral Health’s NatCon Conference. It’s been quite an experience for a techguy like me to dip my toes into the world of behavioral health. Plus, in many ways this takes me back since when I started my journey into the world of healthcare, I was charged with implementing an EMR into a university counseling center. I’m no doubt one of only a few bloggers that’s ever blogged about behavioral health EMR and the challenges of implementing a general medicine focused EMR (most of them anyway) in a counseling center.

As I noted in my previous post, what’s surprising is how many things behavioral health EMR has in common with the rest of the healthcare world. That theme seems to carry through.

However, today I had a couple more insights. First, we think we have it complex when it comes to medical care and sometimes it is very complex. However, the challenges that behavioral health professionals face is much more challenging and often absolutely gut wrenching. Hearing some of the stories just tugs at your heart in an extraordinary way. It definitely takes someone special to work in the behavioral health field. That’s especially true given the many stigmas they have to battle against. It was amazing to hear how many times the stigma of behavioral health was discussed at the conference. It’s unfortunate how much stigma holds us back.

Second, we need better collaboration between behavioral health providers and the rest of the healthcare system. In a private Q&A I saw with Dr. Kevin Pho (better known as @KevinMD), he clearly articulated how there’s only so much he can do to help a patient with behavioral health issues in his 10-15 minute appointment slot. We have to work together to solve these problems or it will never get better.

As I think about the need for collaboration and overcoming stigmas, I can’t help but think of the Twitter Chat session I attended at the conference. I’ve always been amazed by how an open platform like Twitter can bring together so many communities of people around a common cause. These communities can break down barriers and stigmas. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. I see it happening every day on social media. The news media likes to only cover the bad effects of social media, but there is a tremendous amount of good that comes from actively participating in social media as well.

All in all, #NatCon16 was an eye opening experience for a blogger like me. It gave me a reminder of how challenging behavioral health is, but also the tremendous opportunities that are available to do so much good in the world when we tackle these challenging problems and are successful.

Bill Would Allow Mental Health Providers To Get MU Incentives

Posted on November 25, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Right now, mental health providers aren’t eligible to get Meaningful Use incentive payments — but a new bill would make that possible.  U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, has filed legislation that would add mental health providers to HITECH, making them eligible for payments if they meet Meaningful Use standards, according to a story in Healthcare IT News.

The bill, the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act, is intended to “fix an oversight in the system,” said Portman in a press statement announcing its filing. “”[By] making IT the bedrock to fully integrated care, my bill will enhance care and treatment for the mentally ill and put them on a path to lead healthy and productive lives.”

The announcement drew praise from a mental health trade organization in Portman’s home state. The CEO of the Ohio Council of Behavioral & Family Health Services Providers, Hubert Wirtz. “Adequate investment in healthcare information technology is critical to enabling mental health and addiction providers to implement systems that help them improve care coordination, provide quality care, measure outcomes and enable continuity of care between primary care, mental health and addiction services,” reports HIN.

However, it seems that Portman’s bill may not reach a vote, as it now sits in a congressional committee, the HIN story notes.

Regardless, though, Portman’s proposal is a good one. Good mental health outcomes, which the right EMR can enhance, can do much to address the health of a population, empowering consumers to take better care of their physical health.  What’s more, encouraging behavioral health providers to have a mental health EMR in place can share their findings smoothly with care managers (ideally PCPs) who can do their part to provide integrated care. All told, this seems like an idea whose time has come.