Mental Health Center of Denver is securely sharing behavioral health data with local physicians when patients explicitly consent, in an attempt to improve the coordination of care and build a person-centric approach between behavioral, primary care and ancillary providers.

The center uses the Netsmart behavioral health electronic health record, which has integrated with the Carequality interoperability network of the Sequoia Project to exchange behavioral health records. A behavioral health provider can send a query for data to Carequality, and if the query is approved, the data can be shared via the Netsmart EHR.

The mental health center, Denver Health—using an electronic health record from Epic—and Netsmart all work together to make this happen.

Also See: HHS funding expands substance abuse, mental health services

If a physical health provider seeks behavioral health data, a query is made, information is received and Netsmart checks for consent and, if granted, the exchange is done electronically and automatically. For now, no entity has a complete file of consents, so cross-referencing lists are used to track down consents.

“The application of Carequality to our Netsmart EHR has helped to open additional doors that create the best opportunity for true integration of mental and physical healthcare,” says Wes Williams, vice president and chief information officer at Mental Health Center of Denver. “We are now able to exchange behavioral health data with the community-based providers of the individuals we serve in an automated manner, while remaining compliant with current industry and federal substance abuse privacy requirements.”

Wes Williams
Wes Williams

The center previously attempted to share behavioral and substance abuse data, but ran into complex requirements and a lack of scalability. The center also works with Denver Health, which uses the Epic EHR, but the Carequality network offers a higher level of connectivity and access to patient records than what was previously available.

Now, when appropriate, primary care physicians at Denver Health have access to relevant physical and mental health data.

“Carequality has a governance framework with standards and rules,” Williams explains. “Vendors agree on how to exchange, and providers agree to a set of rules to only use the data when providing healthcare treatment. Beyond that is a massive provider directory—if you want records at Denver Health, here is where to go.”

New enhancements to the program include the mental health center working with Netsmart on clinical reconciliation so the center can query Denver Health and reconcile medications. Work on this project is being done now. Also, Williams hopes to build a Colorado-live consent repository housed by the state, the CORHIO health information exchange or created through a federated model linking systems together. Further, work is underway to add patient consents from Kaiser and other major delivery systems in the region.

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