Easier Data Exchange Aids Mental Health Workers

Outpatient program receives information directly into its electronic health record.

Direct secure messaging has transformed the way a Chicago community mental-health services provider cares for patients, according to a case study highlighted in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s Health IT Buzz blog.

Direct secure messaging, part of the Direct Project, allows a one-way “push” of information from a health-care provider to a known receiver. Some states, including Illinois, are using Direct secure messaging as part of their health information exchange.

Using the Direct secure-messaging tool, the Ada S. McKinley Community Services’ (Ada) outpatient mental-health program receives patient-care information directly into its electronic health record, writes Erica Galvez, community of practice director at ONC’s State Health Information Exchange Program.

Most of the 300 children and adolescents that enter Ada’s mental-health program each month are referred by primary-care physicians or they transfer from hospitals, according to Margo Roethlisberger, the organization’s vice president of program operations in behavioral health and clinical services. Accompanying each admission are the hundreds of pages of records that arrive each day, Galvez wrote.

“By the time the paper was received, scanned and placed in a patient’s EHR, the patient had already been seen by clinical staff,” Roethlisberger told Galvez. “Absent this data, the clinician must rely on the family to bring in the child’s discharge papers and to inform him of the child’s past medical history, medications, etc.”

Ada implemented the secure messaging through the Illinois Health Information Exchange in February, which “cut the time it takes to get information into the patient’s EHR from months to minutes,” Galvez wrote. That allows clinicians to review patient medical records before seeing the patient, according to Roethlisberger, including their often complicated medication plans.

Members of Ada’s staff also are using Direct secure messaging in the field to upload mental-health assessments via iPads, according to the blog post. Ada staff will be able to send the documents not just to their offices, but to Chicago-area hospitals that sign up for the secure-messaging tool. Roethlisberger is encouraging other health-care providers to also use Direct Project, Galvez said.