The collaborative initiative between SAMHSA and ONC aims to revolutionize behavioral health IT interoperability, with a significant investment of $20 million over three years. Addressing the longstanding challenges faced by behavioral health providers in adopting health IT standards, the initiative introduces the BHIT Initiative and USCDI+ project. Through identifying key data elements, streamlining reporting processes, and providing comprehensive resources and technical assistance, this partnership seeks to bridge the gap in interoperability and enhance care coordination across behavioral health settings, ultimately improving patient outcomes and advancing the quality of mental health and substance abuse treatment.
In a bid to tackle the persistent health disparities in IT adoption among behavioral health providers, SAMHSA and ONC have joined forces in a groundbreaking initiative to propel behavioral health IT interoperability to unprecedented heights. With an investment of $20 million over the next three years, this collaborative effort seeks to address the systemic challenges hindering the integration of health IT standards within behavioral health settings. Through the introduction of the Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Initiative and the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI+) project, this partnership endeavors to revolutionize data capture, exchange, and reporting processes, ultimately fostering improved care coordination and patient outcomes in the realm of mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Pooling resources, the two agencies are set to allocate a substantial $20 million from SAMHSA funds over the forthcoming three years towards the advancement of behavioral health IT data standards, marking a pivotal investment in enhancing the landscape of mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Despite the strides made in health IT adoption across various sectors, behavioral health providers have often found themselves trailing behind, hindered in part by their exclusion from key incentive programs like those administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Citing ONC’s analysis of data from the American Hospital Association (AHA), it becomes apparent that while 86 percent of non-federal, general acute care hospitals had embraced a 2015 Edition certified Electronic Health Record (EHR), only 67 percent of psychiatric hospitals had followed suit. Furthermore, an examination of SAMHSA survey data from 2020 revealed a glaring gap in interoperability and patient engagement functionalities within psychiatric hospitals.
In response to these challenges, the Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Initiative emerges as a beacon of hope, poised to identify and pilot a curated set of data elements specific to behavioral health in collaboration with SAMHSA’s Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant (SUPTRS BG) and Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) grantees.
With a focus on enhancing care coordination and reducing operational costs for behavioral health providers, this initiative introduces a new domain under the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI+) specifically tailored to behavioral health. Spearheaded by Micky Tripathi, ONC’s national coordinator for health IT, and Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, the project aims to streamline data capture, utilization, and exchange processes.
The USCDI+ project doesn’t stop at data capture; it extends its reach to facilitate seamless reporting for SAMHSA grantees, empowering mental health and substance use treatment providers to effectively measure and report on the care they deliver.
In the year 2024, ONC, SAMHSA, and other federal agencies will embark on the crucial task of identifying the data elements that will comprise the USCDI+ project as part of the broader BHIT Initiative. This endeavor will be guided by a collaborative approach, incorporating insights and priorities from clinicians, grantees, states, and advocates alike.
SAMHSA and ONC are committed to working closely with technology developers and participating providers to seamlessly integrate USCDI+ behavioral health data elements into existing health IT infrastructure and pilot their efficacy in real-world scenarios.
Expanding on the BHIT Initiative’s scope, ONC will develop a comprehensive behavioral health information resource tailored to support both behavioral health care and integrated practice settings for Health and Human Services (HHS) grantees and the wider public. This resource will serve as a guide for the implementation of USCDI+ behavioral health data elements, offering practical insights into leveraging health IT to address clinical priorities, technical know-how for integration across behavioral health settings, and support for optimizing workflows.
Furthermore, ONC is poised to offer technical assistance to pilot participants from the SUPTRS BG and MHGB programs, providing invaluable support in navigating the intricacies of health IT adoption. This support may encompass the deployment of educational resources elucidating the adoption of health IT capabilities and technical guidance on BHIT data encoding and quality assurance.
In essence, the collaborative initiative between SAMHSA and ONC represents a significant milestone in the journey toward achieving seamless interoperability in behavioral health IT. By investing $20 million over three years and introducing innovative projects like the BHIT Initiative and USCDI+ project, this partnership endeavors to address longstanding challenges, bridge the gap in health IT adoption, and enhance care coordination across behavioral health settings. Through comprehensive resources, technical assistance, and a collaborative approach involving stakeholders at every level, this initiative holds the promise of revolutionizing mental health and substance abuse treatment, ultimately improving patient outcomes and advancing the quality of care in behavioral health.