“How many of you are using electronic health records?”
When H. Westley Clark, MD, JD, MPH, CAS, FASAM, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, asked the question during his keynote presentation at the 2011 National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD), relatively few attendees were able to raise their hand.
During his presentation, titled "Does Health Information Technology Have a Place in Addiction Treatment?", Clark said too many treatment providers still haven’t implemented EHRs—even though they “need to have the ability to document what they do.”
“People want to know what they are getting,’” noted Clark. “Stories are not enough; we need data, a sense of quality. Otherwise, how are we supposed to learn that people are getting better?”
Clarke discussed the need for better quality measures, suggesting that measures need to be in place to determine if the best decisions are being made to deliver patients the highest quality of care.
While Clark said the primary role of the HIT effort is “supporting behavioral health aspects of the EHRs based on standards in the system,” he added that it also needs to be able to exchange the data and analyze quality in order to demonstrate its worth in respect to funding.
Clark also voiced the need to first create the infrastructure for interoperable EHRs, including privacy, confidentiality, and data standards.
“That is one of the underlying issues,” he said. “We have increasing accessibility to EHRs, but it raises this issue of trust and confidentiality.”
Clark touched on several aspects of privacy as well, such as individual access, and the ability to correct misinformation. But, “how transparent should the process be?” he asked.
“These are all issues concerning information practices. But these issues are not peculiar to behavioral health; they are not specific to substance abuse,” Clark said. “They are general. And all of us will have to deal with these issues.”
Clark also talked about the opportunities presented by emerging technologies such as Smartphones, iPads, and GPS systems, as well as better utilizing tools like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, text messaging and e-mail.
“We can’t use being the baby boomer generation as an excuse,” Clark said. “Lots of people don’t want to deal with this stuff. But we have to deal with this stuff.”