Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Mission in Jeopardy

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Mission in Jeopardy

Article excerpt

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal," repeated Bowman with growing frustration. The tiny space pod in which the astronaut sat continued to hover,; awaiting entrance to the jup iter-hound mother ship, Discovery.

Beaumaris fice lightened. Again, las/eager re-keyed finger re-keyed the transmitter, 'dial do you read me?" Another pause.

'Affirmative, Dave. I read you, "said the HAL 9000 computer.

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal. "

"I'm afraid I can'tcant do that, Dave," Hal replied. "... This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it."

In 1968, this iconic scene from 2001, A Space Odyssey, anticipated the achievements and failings of a world gone digital. A world in which computers and software can contribute powerfully to the achievement of an organizational mission or, in some cases, complicate and impede a mission so much that we, like astronaut Bowman, decide that it's got to be "us or them."

The idea behind what we now call health information technology was once pure and perfect: Use information technology to simplify administration, delivery, recording, and payment of medical, behavioral, and human services so that more care is available at a lower cost. Keep individual health records private, but make them portable and sharable, so that up-to-date information is available at the point of care--especially in emergencies. And, use data for public good by tracking outcomes, fostering adoption of the very best care methods and making measurable steps in improving public health.

This is still a great idea provided, of course, that we don't let the ongoing proliferation of payer systems and reporting requirements jeopardize the mission. I'll give you an example. Not long ago, after learning that a major government payer had selected a specific type of EHR system, I asked the IT manager of a large mental health agency why his agency decided to adopt a different EHR system shortly thereafter.

"Wouldn't having the same system make 'interoperabilty' a lot easier?" I asked, assuming, of course, that some sort of labor-saving data exchange could occur with the payer. No, he said, "that doesn't make any difference." He explained that, even as provider agencies throughout the region get onboard with EHR systems of their own, the payer "made it clear that 'your data is not going into our system. …

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