It’s interesting to see so much recent action there’s been on an issue where politicians and clinical leaders traditionally feared to tread. National Coordinator for HIT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., earlier this month outlined a push by ONC to bring more behavioral health providers into the fold, and work with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to get the data digitized and embedded into electronic records. The publicity on the issue follows efforts by federal lawmakers and associations like the American Academy of Nursing for more shared access to the most sensitive data in the healthcare ecosystem.

But, not surprisingly, the effort is going down a technologically and politically tortuous path. The plan being floated now would apply the Data Segmentation for Privacy (DS4P) technology standard to the effort, which would use metadata and encryption on a document and rely on the receiver having compatible technology to enable the data to be segregated. The federal workgroup on DS4P has said publicly it’s not sure if the standard is ready to go. On top of that, getting that data to flow requires automation in the behavioral health and psychiatric sectors of the industry, which are largely unautomated and are for the most part are going to have to be dragged into this kicking and screaming.

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