Banner–University Health Plans adopt tech to aid substance abuse care

Banner–University Health Plans is launching the Banner Navigation Accelerator, a new platform to integrate physical, mental and social determinants of health information on members at point of care.

Banner says use of the Accelerator, set for adoption on September 30, will help providers to rapidly connect members struggling with substance abuse to appropriate resources for help and recovery.

The Accelerator is powered by Phoenix-based HealthBI’s CareEmpower, care coordination technology deployed by 70,000 clinical sites nationwide and supporting seven Medicaid managed health plans in Arizona.

The Accelerator, with the help of CareEmpower, will be able to extract, aggregate and normalize data from BUHP’s claims and Arizona's health information exchange, HealthCurrent. It will also access provider care plans; medication and lab history; and hospital admissions, discharges and transfers on BUHP members.

"The Banner Navigation Accelerator is exactly what the name implies—a model that speeds up and streamlines the path to needed behavioral and physical health services while providing linkages to community resources,” says Sandra Stein, MD, medical director for Complete Care at BUHP. “Based on HealthBI's care coordination technology, it really is a first-of-its-kind shared platform that gives providers in different practices a full and current picture of a member's comprehensive health status."

Sandra Stein-CROP.jpg
Sandra Stein, MD

Stein says most healthcare is provided at multiple sites of care, with a member’s behavioral and physical health often having an impact on substance use disorders. “To validate diagnoses, you need an understanding of what's going on physically,” she says. “To prescribe psychotropic medications and treat substance use disorders, it's absolutely essential to know what's been prescribed by the physical health care provider.”

Banner said it developed the Accelerator based on interviews with experts impacted by behavioral health issues. Emergency first responders told Banner that lack of health information, background and prescription information on members in trouble often led to the need to take that person to the emergency room or jail. But access to “just a few pieces of additional information” would help first responders provide options other than the justice system.

Healthcare providers said they face “persistent challenges” in obtaining comprehensive medical records from other providers, making it difficult to apply the right diagnoses and to safely prescribe medications.

Kathleen Oestreich, CEO of BUHP, says the most heartbreaking stories were directly about the people who struggled personally with mental health issues. "One of the most affecting stories for me personally came from a distraught mother, whose child was experiencing acute behavioral health issues,” she says. “It took this mother weeks to schedule an appointment with a provider, only to ultimately discover it was the wrong provider. I left that meeting knowing we had to change this deeply challenged system."

Providers are already responding favorably, Banner says. "Given the extraordinary physical and behavioral health challenges faced by people with autism, I'm probably even more excited than most about a new shared platform for integrating health care," says Kyle Lininger, director of integrated care at Intermountain Centers. "Previously, we had to rely on patients' parents to give us information about what was going on physically in the home.”

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