176247 Getting in sync: Improving communication across primary care and mental health disciplines through web-based technology

Monday, October 27, 2008: 5:00 PM

Aaron Kirby, MSc , Institute for Community Health, Cambridge, MA
Steve Carter , Cambridge Health Alliance, Somerville, MA
Karen Hacker, MD MPH , Institute for Community Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA
As many health care organizations adopt electronic medical records (EMR), communication across borders of primary care providers (PCPs) and mental health agencies external to their practice has become more challenging particularly regarding compliance with HIPAA regulations. Data sent to external agencies must be encrypted in order to protect the security of patient information. In addition, PCPs have less time to collaborate with external providers and prefer to make their referrals internally via the EMR. In Cambridge, MA, a sustainable web-based referral tool that allows client information to be shared in a secure environment between PCPs and external mental health agencies was developed. In order to create this simplistic referral system, seven community partners provided consultation to develop a user friendly IT system that fulfills numerous diverse legal requirements. The “E-Ref” system transmits secured information to the referral agency by syncing with the hospital registration system. Patient consent is required. The challenges of developing this system include financial, legal, and complex issues of electronic access at multiple agencies attempting to link providers. Such a system has the potential to transform the delivery of mental health services for children by making communication between PCP and mental health/substance abuse providers more efficient as well as linking screening with services. This presentation will discuss the development of the “E-ref” system and the various adaptations needed to insure its utilization and sustainability.

Learning Objectives:
Identify limitations for creating an electronic referral system in regard to linking primary care providers with external mental health agencies. Describe strategies taken to improve communication between primary care and mental health disciplines. Recognize the potential to transform systems of care by using a simplistic communication method.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I wrote the abstract and take responsibility for the work.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.