Why Interoperability is Essential for Mental Healthcare Delivery

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By Qualifacts OnCall Thought Leader Carrie Singer, Psy.D, Licensed Psychologist and Executive Director, Quince Orchard Psychotherapy

Thought Leader Carrie Singer, Psy.D, Licensed Psychologist

Remember the first few years in your business? It’s so hard to find the right workflows and standard operating procedures that lead to smooth sailing. I learned mainly through trial and error since there were no definitive guidelines for healthcare entrepreneurs. In the first three years of founding my mental health group practice, we switched EHRs and telehealth platforms three times! It seemed like no product was perfect, but it was hard to know the “kinks” until we had gone through the process of implementation. The frequent organizational change weighed heavy on the staff, who felt like they spent valuable time on administrative matters that could have been dedicated to patient care and greater income. The main issues weren’t with the systems, they were in how the systems communicated with one another. None of them had open APIs or if they did, developers would have to pay for access—costs that would be passed along to us that didn’t seem worth it.

Our goal was to create an end-to-end booking process for patients that would allow online scheduling, real-time eligibility and benefit checks, intake form completion, telehealth, payment capture, and post-visit experience surveys. We needed at least three tools to make that happen, but none of them worked well together. The next generation of tools should allow for seamless integration across other systems like EHRs CRMs and payment processors via free open API access to allow greater versatility and modernization in optimizing workflows and improving staff and patient satisfaction. Technology is only as good as its flexibility.

In another example, we did a pilot of an integrated care model with a primary care medical group with thousands of physicians. Figuring out how to deploy digital mental health screeners to primary care patients, auto-score responses, and use AI to create “care pathways” to the best-suited and next available mental health provider in the network proved impossible. Without a custom solution that would cost half a million dollars, this innovation fell by the wayside, leaving hundreds of patients unidentified and unreferred for treatment. An interoperable solution would have helped up connect the technology required to help patients in this way. It’s clear that integrated healthcare technology is not only what providers need, but what patients require to receive quality care.

Care partnerships are the future of mental health. We need novel solutions to ease the gap between the historic number of patients that need help and the geographically dispersed clinicians who are able to serve them. I believe interoperability and ease of technology use are key in paving the way.

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