In the first piece of our series on overcoming the opioid crisis, we touched on the importance of being connected in healthcare and sharing critical health information between providers in all settings. While we know connectivity and interoperability are essential ingredients to the recipe, there are others that pose a threat to accessibility and effectiveness of being connected.
Policy to impact the crisis
We know health data is protected information through HIPAA – which is a good thing. But did you know not all health information is treated equally? Did you know substance use disorder (SUD) information is treated differently from the rest of the information in an individual’s health record? As it stands, current regulation prevents SUD from being easily available, requiring additional permissions for providers to gain access.
Seems strange, doesn’t it, when substance use disorder and addiction are the cruces of the opioid crisis?
There’s power in creating thoughtful policies and regulations that align all healthcare settings to have equal and complete transparency that providers need to make effective decisions in the care of addicted individuals.
Currently, proposed changes are being reviewed by Congress with the end goal to be more closely aligned with HIPAA while maintaining protections to avoid the use of SUD information to discriminate against an individual.
As the proposed policy and regulatory revisions make their way through the review and legislative process, we should also consider the motivation and accessibility for providers to adopt technology. While acute and primary care have the impetus and financial incentives to implement technology standards and solutions made possible with current policies and incentives like Meaningful Use, behavioral and substance use providers do not have that option available to them. Many organizations are already working with strained resources and budgets. Without the financial incentives afforded to other types of care providers, it leaves them further behind in the pursuit to overcome the opioid crisis.
The tide is turning for these providers, however. The Opioid Crisis Response Act and the SUPPORT Act passed in Fall 2018 include important health IT provisions including incentives as part of a pilot program for behavioral health and SUD providers to implement health IT solutions. With value placed on both physical and behavioral health to help quell the epidemic, it’s essential for all providers to have equal opportunity to manage care with access to the technology they need to make it all happen.
Forward steps like these are essential to continuing the fight against opioid addiction. Continued support from policymakers can greatly influence the success of all care providers and improve the lives of addicted individuals.
Want to dive deeper? Check out our 6-point EHR checklist to address the opioid crisis and watch this space on CareThreads. In Part III of our series, we’ll explore technological factors that could influence the direction of the current epidemic.
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