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Moving Forward With Interoperability: The Behavioral Health Perspective

by Marlowe Greenberg, CEO, Foothold Technology

For the last several years, Foothold Technology has participated in the InterSystems Global Summit, where leaders convene to discuss and learn how to tackle healthcare and IT challenges. As in previous years, we participated in two tracks at the conference. Our developers were on the technical track while I was on the invitation-only Healthcare Leadership track. This year’s conference was in Phoenix, and it was jarring to be surrounded by the natural beauty of Camelback Mountain while delving into the details of HL7 and CCDA exchanges.

The event included about 100 executives from various parts of our healthcare system gathering to talk primarily about the state of health information interoperability and its impact on patient care. I heard from Northwell, Mount Sinai, Hunterdon Medical Center, HealthFirst, and a number of other leaders in the field. In general, most participants were of the opinion that things were progressing reasonably well; more organizations were sharing more data and more organizations were using that data in their work to treat patients.

As the only participant who works in the behavioral health/mental health sector, I had a slightly different perspective. However, even from Foothold’s perspective, the implementation of the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP) Performing Provider Systems (PPS) has meant that more Foothold customers are looking to exchange data than ever before. So, indeed, this trend is notable across the healthcare industry.

Most participants, including Foothold, agreed that one area of major challenge to the forward march of data interoperability is how to reorganize workflows so that clinicians can actually use the data in their EHRs at the point of service. This is a challenge whether you’re talking about an ER doctor who wants to know salient details about a patient’s medical history when that patient walks into the ER or whether you’re talking about a mental health clinician meeting with a consumer and what data they would like to see from other healthcare providers. It does no good to have technical interoperability if the data isn’t presented in a time and place in the workflow that makes it useful.

The challenge with this issue is that the software developers in the room, Foothold included, can’t really answer that question. It is ultimately going to be the users -- the doctors, the clinicians, and the homeless shelter directors -- who are going to have to tell us what data would be useful for them. If you could know anything as someone is checking into a shelter, what would you like to know about that person’s medical history? As someone is coming in for their group session, what data would be helpful for you in your treatment of them? These questions are difficult, but in my mind, they represent the difference between a truly profound shift in the delivery of healthcare and a nice technical achievement that never really does anything. In other words, this is a crucial question to answer.

In all, it was a highly worthwhile couple of days and it is always good to be reminded of the fact that behavioral and mental health are still considered afterthoughts by much of the medical profession. It is an honor to be out there, fighting for human services agencies and the value you bring to your consumers and to the healthcare industry.

This blog was first published on the Foothold Technology "Think Tank" blog: Moving Forward With Interoperability.


Marlowe Greenberg

Marlowe Greenberg, CEO of Foothold Technology

Marlowe Greenberg is CEO of Foothold Technology, a human services software provider. Foothold offers web-based software that eases the burden of documentation, providing agencies with the freedom to focus on their mission. More than 900 agencies nationwide count on Foothold’s AWARDS software to manage their services. Follow Marlowe on Twitter at @CEOatFoothold.


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