EHRs and Behavioral Health Management

The term “behavioral health” covers a broad spectrum of serious medical concerns—from substance abuse to mental health issues. While behavioral health may not have been a traditional priority in health care in the past, this has become an area of increasing focus in recent years.

As William Stadler, senior strategist at Cerner, explains, “any population health strategy that neglects the seriousness of mental health or substance abuse as problems facing our health care system is destined for failure over the long-term.” The National Institute for Mental Health reports that today, mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals aged 15 – 44. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the total cost of health care related to substance abuse in the U.S. is $161 billion annually.

Cerner has made a commitment to achieving more comprehensive population health through the incorporation of behavioral health into electronic health record (EHR) systems that enable communication across multiple venues. This integration will also help clinicians improve patient outcomes and reduce overall costs by delivering better-quality services seamlessly across the continuum of care.

Cerner recently announced a partnership with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the largest nonprofit addiction treatment  provider in the country, to implement an EHR system. Together, Cerner and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation aim to improve the care of individuals suffering from addiction by incorporating new tools into the clinical work and treatment that Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation provides.

“Addiction is a chronic disease that, if left untreated, costs the United States economy billions of dollars each year in health care costs and lost productivity,” says Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation President and CEO Mark Mishek in a press release announcing the collaboration. “Partnering with an enormously well-respected technology provider like Cerner, which shares our vision for bringing behavioral health solutions into the care continuum, will enable us to reach more people and be a greater force for help and healing.”

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Cerner are working to integrate a recovery management program, My Ongoing Recovery Experience (MORE), within Cerner solutions. MORE is designed as a structured program that will be delivered through a patient portal and coupled with recovery coach engagement. MORE helps to encourage participants to continue learning and engaging in their recovery as they transition from treatment.

These are just the first steps in a much longer process of further integrating behavioral health into the health care landscape. Fully accepting behavioral health into our national health care system will require a philosophy shift in population health. However, behavioral health services are a critical part of offering better, more complete care, improving the health of our nation and ultimately reducing health care costs.