During a disaster such as a hurricane or flood, opioid treatment programs (OTPs) may be forced to close, and because many do not have access to electronic health records, patients are left to seek treatment in programs that do not have access to their treatment history. This can lead to patients receiving delayed or incorrect treatment, which means putting their health at risk. For example, about 1,000 OTP patients couldn’t get access to treatment in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
To minimize the effects of these service disruptions, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funded an Opioid Treatment Program Service Continuity Pilot in 2015.
As the pilot was beginning, Laura Rosas, lead public health advisor with SAMHSA, told Behavioral Healthcare magazine that, “because dosing with methadone can be fatal, it is important to get the dose correct. We are pilot testing two OTPs that are connecting to an HIE in a way that is 42 CFR Part 2-compliant, to see if we can send the information from one OTP to an HIE and have the other OTP access that information directly.”
In a recent blog post, SAMHSA said the pilot demonstrated that it is possible to create a patient-controlled health information exchange between OTPs that is compliant with federal and state laws. Encouraged by the success of the pilot, SAMHSA announced a second year of the project in January 2016, and just announced that Arizona Health-e Connection (AzHeC) has been awarded funding to continue building on lessons learned from the pilot.
AzHeC will work with three Arizona-based behavioral health organizations—Valle del Sol, Southwest Behavioral & Health Services, and Maricopa County Correction Health Services—to design and implement health information exchange among four of the organizations’ OTPs. In addition to developing the technology to support the secure and timely exchange of treatment information, AzHeC will also create accompanying trainings for providers and educational materials for OTP patients.
SAMHSA said it anticipates that the lessons learned from this second phase of the project will be of great interest to the medication-assisted treatment field, and behavioral health providers and technology developers more generally.