CORHIO, Colorado Health Care Leaders Issue Report on Strategies to Integrate Behavioral Health and Physical Health through HIE

Published On: April 5, 2012

Nearly 90 Percent of Stakeholders Surveyed Believe Behavioral Health Should Be Considered a Part of a Person’s Overall Health Care

DENVER, Colo. – April 5, 2012 – As a measure to improve integration of behavioral and physical health, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) partnered with a multi-stakeholder behavioral health Steering Committee, and solicited feedback from communities across Colorado, to create a report with recommendations and future strategies for effective inclusion of behavioral health in health information exchange (HIE). The report was written as part of the CORHIO Behavioral Health Information Exchange Project with support from Rose Community Foundation. The report is now available on the CORHIO website at

“Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with mental health conditions and some people fear that their diagnosis may fall into the wrong hands and will be used against them,” says Amanda Kearney-Smith, director of the Colorado Mental Wellness Network and member of the project’s Steering Committee. “We have to be sure to strike a careful balance between protecting individual privacy with the need to have comprehensive information available for high-quality health care treatment and services.”

To solicit information for the report, CORHIO helped facilitate six meetings in communities across Colorado, which were chosen to represent a broad cross-section of perspectives and attitudes regarding HIE. A total of 124 consumers, physicians, and other behavioral health stakeholders were in attendance to discuss the concerns, opportunities and priorities of exchanging behavioral health information. The meetings took place in collaboration with community mental health centers and other behavioral health community organizations, so participants could feel comfortable and have open and honest dialogue.

A few key points that came out of the community discussions include:

  • Consumers expressed significant interest in having access to their health information within the HIE.
  • Both physicians and patients expressed significant concerns, such as privacy issues and inappropriate use of information.
  • Behavioral health stakeholders agree that better information sharing can lead to better outcomes for individuals and populations receiving behavioral health care.
  • Participants expressed they would have more comfort with information sharing if there were more choice about which information would be shared with whom. Current models of all-in or all-out information sharing do not seem to meet the needs of this community.
  • Across all six events, only one participant felt that better information sharing was not needed.

Studies have shown that the average life expectancy for those with serious mental illness ranges from 13 to 30 years less than the rest of the population.1 Much of this can be attributed to fragmented, inconsistent, and episodic care. Individuals requiring behavioral health services have a unique need for integrated care due to frequent use of the healthcare system and a greater need to coordinate care among diverse providers. However, today, behavioral health care services are not well integrated with physical or medical care. According to the CORHIO report, nearly 90 percent of participants surveyed agree that behavioral health should be considered a part of a person’s overall health care.

“HIE is an invaluable tool for the behavioral health community because it enables information to truly follow consumers through the entire treatment path, across a variety of care settings. It provides immediate access to vital patient information which reduces the chance that a consumer will experience a drug interaction or other medical complication and improves the overall consumer experience as they navigate the health care system,” said CORHIO Policy Director, Liza Fox-Wylie. “CORHIO remains committed to working with the behavioral health and physical health communities to improve care coordination and population health outcomes through HIE, while protecting patients’ rights to privacy.”

CORHIO is developing an action plan based on the results and recommendations in this report, including working with project Steering Committee members and other stakeholder organizations on consumer, provider and policymaker education and working with CORHIO’s technology partner, Medicity, to improve the robustness of HIE technology to support more granular options for patient choice regarding which information is shared with whom.

In September 2010, the Rose Community Foundation awarded CORHIO a two-year grant to support the Behavioral Health and Health Information Exchange Project, which funded the creation of CORHIO’s behavioral health report. “Individuals’ physical health, mental health and substance use are closely intertwined,” said Whitney Connor, Rose Community Foundation’s health program officer. “Provider access to timely information about their patients’ medical and behavioral health is critical to delivering effective care.”

CORHIO is dedicated to improving health care quality for all Coloradans through health information exchange (HIE). As the state designated entity for HIE, CORHIO collaborates with health care stakeholders including physicians, hospitals, clinics, public health, long-term care, laboratories, health plans and patients to improve care collaboration through secure systems and processes for sharing clinical information. CO-REC, a CORHIO initiative, assists primary care providers in adopting, implementing and becoming meaningful users of electronic health record (EHR) systems. CORHIO is a not-for-profit supported in large part by grants, including awards from the Colorado Health Foundation and from federal ARRA HITECH funds. CORHIO’s technical infrastructure is built on industry-leading HIE technology developed and maintained by Medicity. For more information about CORHIO, please visit

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