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Arizona HIE Integration Plan Supported by Regional Behavioral Health Authorities

May 31, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Arizona’s three regional behavioral health authorities (RBHAs) have joined in a statewide plan to integrate physical and behavioral health in the statewide health information exchange (HIE), The Network, the Arizona Health-e Connection (AzHeC) announced last week.

Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care (Mercy Maricopa); Health Choice Integrated Care; and Cenpatico Integrated Care have made a significant investment in the plan that will connect behavioral health providers to the statewide network, operated by AzHeC, and integrate access to physical and behavioral health information into workflows and clinical decision making, according to a press release.

The plan aims to make participation simple and easy for all community providers, with one single connection and one fee structure for all community providers. The hospital and health plan participants in the statewide HIE, along with several grants and contracts, cover 100 percent of the HIE’s operating costs so that community providers, including community behavioral health providers, do not pay fees for participating, according to Melissa Kotrys, CEO of Arizona Health-e Connection. “The more that we can encourage participation in and connectivity to The Network, the more patient information that will be available for all providers,” Kotrys said in a statement. “It sounds simple and is simple, but this is ultimately how we will enable better care coordination and clinical decision making.”

According to officials, a key challenge in integrating physical and behavioral health data is the complex statutory framework that governs these two types of data. There are three basic sets of laws that apply: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal substance abuse treatment privacy laws (42 CFR Part 2 in the Code of Federal Regulations), and Arizona’s health information organization (HIO) law. AzHeC’s integrated HIE will employ a layered, scalable process that meets all state and federal legal requirements for patient notification and consent while affording all patient rights under the laws, officials say.

This plan also includes deploying a statewide crisis portal that can provide access to critical patient information in an emergency. AzHeC has developed the crisis portal and has provided training for behavioral health providers in central Arizona. Training for behavioral health providers in southern and northern Arizona will be completed in the coming months, with a phased roll-out of the crisis portal planned by region. As previously reported by Healthcare Informatics, health information exchange in crisis mental healthcare situations has been a strong focus at the Behavioral Health Information Network of Arizona (BHINAZ), a behavioral health information network owned by community providers in Arizona.

The leaders of the three RBHAs support the plan because of the significant potential to improve health care and outcomes statewide.  “We know that providing more complete information for clinical decision making will improve care coordination and patient outcomes, especially for our members with comorbid physical and behavioral health conditions,” said Eddy Broadway, CEO of Mercy Maricopa.

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