WAYNE, Pa. (January 28, 2015)– Integrated care can transform the patient experience and contain costs linked to unaddressed behavioral health needs. But efforts to date have been hampered by budgetary and technological barriers. An innovative—and cost-effective—new initiative in the demanding emergency department setting is now studying the feasibility of behavioral health screening and referral for every patient who passes through the doors.
The project is the first of its kind in the United States, and is a joint effort between long time collaborators Polaris Health Directions and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is being launched at the UMass Memorial Medical Center’s University campus, in Worcester.
At the core of the project is a sophisticated, Web-based infrastructure that supports and automates the behavioral health “vital signs” check. While the emergency department is the initial focus for the pilot, the resulting product will be adaptable for other general and specialized medical settings.
“The project’s smart, flexible technology combined with the development of best practices and protocols will ensure a sustainable integration into the clinical workflow that can be transferred to other settings,” said Dr. Edwin Boudreaux, professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry, and Quantitative Health Sciences at UMass. “By adding EHR interoperability to the equation we are creating a truly powerful engine to transform the quality of patient care.”
Patients admitted to the emergency department, using a tablet or other Internet-enabled device, respond to screening questions regarding their behavioral health. If the patient screens positive for any concerns, such as alcohol misuse or depression, they will be offered the opportunity to answer additional questions.
Those patients who are “at risk” for any one of the screened conditions receive a printed report and are offered a behavioral health intervention on site, as well as referrals for additional services. During low volume hours, the interventions will be administered through the Web-based system, reducing the high cost of staffing a behavioral health interventionist at all times of the day.
The unique logistical challenges inherent in emergency department care make it an ideal testing environment. Success in this setting will pave the way to expand into other settings, including inpatient medical units and primary care clinics.
Ultimately, the project expects to demonstrate that delivering evidence-based behavioral health interventions in medical settings will achieve the health care trifecta: the delivery of high quality care, reduced health care costs and improved revenue.
The Web-based platform used in this project was developed by Polaris in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the state of Massachusetts.