Let’s Talk About Mental Health and Addictions at #HIMSS18

This blog is a #HIMSS18 primer series for attendees, and the industry at large, to discuss major health IT issues that will help move health and healthcare delivery forward in 2018 – and beyond.

By Sean Erreger LCSW, Social Worker, Adjunct instructor, Trainer and Blogger

Mental health and addictions care are coming to the forefront of healthcare but more importantly they will be getting attention at the 2018 HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition. As a direct practice social worker with 14 years of experience in mental health, I may be coming to HIMSS with more questions than answers. There exists many challenges but plenty of opportunity for integrating mental health with physical health.

I am coming to the conference with the belief that health IT can play a role in three key ways:

  1. Decision Support: How can health IT assist with assessment, referral and treatment of mental health substance use disorders across the healthcare continuum
  2. Health Information Exchanges (HIEs): How can HIEs aide the exchange of information between interdisciplinary care providers, patients and families?
  3. Policy: We know that making mental health and addictions part of an electronic health record (EHR) makes sense, but understanding privacy laws and reimbursement reform will play a key role in how these programs can be implemented.

Stakeholder Alignment

Initial mental healthcare often starts with primary care and grows from there. The wider net you cast to assist with mental health and addictions care the better. Partnerships between primary care and mental health specialists are key. Overall, I have seen comorbidity with mental health and other specialty care, such as endocrinology and oncology. Multi-disciplinary care can be powerful, but role clarification (who is doing what and when) can often cause confusion.

Health IT can play a critical role in connecting these specialties. Health technology is in a unique position to provide infrastructure to close these gaps. However, this involves policy makers, patients, families and various specialties having a seat at the table to design the technology.

Barriers & Opportunities

One of the more complex issues seems to be cultural in nature. We know mental health and addictions treatment often stop people from getting treatment; can technology both combat stigmas about mental health while being connected with physical health?

Or are the barriers more pragmatic in nature? There is a shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health providers. This may present an opportunity for health IT to connect with people more efficiently. However, I often wonder if mental health and addictions facilities are left out of healthcare interoperability because of policy and regulatory barriers? Problem-solving these issues may help.

Conversations to Watch at HIMSS18

I am looking forward to many of the sessions including, but not limited to: