When H. Westley Clark, MD, JD, MPH, CAS, FASAM, director of SAM-HSAs Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, asked the question during his keynote presentation at the 2011 National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD), relatively few attendees were able to raise their hand.
During his presentation, "Does Health Information Technology Have a Place in Addiction Treatment?" Clark said that too many treatment providers still haven't implemented EHRs--even though they "need to have the ability to document what they do."
"People want to know what they are getting," noted Clark. "Stories are not enough; we need data, a sense of quality. Otherwise, how are we supposed to learn that people are getting better?"
Clark discussed the need for better quality measures, suggesting that measures need to be in place to determine if the best decisions are being made to deliver patients the highest quality of care.
While Clark said the primary role of the HIT effort is "supporting behavioral health aspects of the EHRs based on standards in the system," he added that it also needs to be able to exchange the data and analyze quality in order to demonstrate its worth in respect to funding.
Clark also voiced the need to first create the infrastructure for interoperable EHRs, including privacy, confidentiality, and data standards.
"That is one of the underlying issues," he said. "We have increasing accessibility to EHRs, but it raises this issue of trust and confidentiality."
Policymakers to move on key IT concerns
In another NCAD session, Clark said that policy makers are also considering a variety of methods for electronically managing the patient consent process required by CFR 42, Part 2, the federal confidentiality statute that governs access to addiction treatment records. While the method to be used is not yet known, Clark asserted, "That can be done, and it will be done."
Clark also indicated that decision makers have "no consensus yet" on the behavioral health content to be required in the proposed electronic "CCD," or continuity of care document, that has been proposed as part of an interoperable patient EHR. However, he pointed out that a meeting of policymakers, scheduled for January, will consider the issue.
As the federal government takes steps to advance the adoption and use of healthcare information technology, Clark said that providers must do the same or risk longer-term financial losses. …