Health IT pilot successfully exchanges behavioral health data across state lines

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — In an effort to further the interoperability of health information, a pilot project successfully demonstrated the exchange of patient electronic behavioral health data across state lines.

The pilot was conducted by members of the Behavioral Health Data Exchange Consortium, which released its final report. The project was administered by RTI International, supported through the State Health Policy Consortium, and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). 

"The exchange of behavioral health data has fallen behind the exchange of general physical health data due to additional privacy protections afforded by federal and state regulations," said Cindy Throop, policy analyst at RTI and consortium project manager. "Demonstrating that behavioral health data can be exchanged electronically while ensuring these protections is a huge step toward providing all patients equal access to the benefits of electronic health information exchange initiatives."

The Behavioral Health Data Exchange Consortium addressed legal, technical, policy and provider education barriers to behavioral health data exchange across health care providers, organizations, and state lines. The consortium consisted of seven states including Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Nebraska and Iowa. 

The project was also the first known instance in which the health information service providers of two states were connected, which permitted encrypted patient data to be exchanged among providers using Direct secure messaging. 

To allow other states to replicate the consortium's approach, the participating states developed forms and templates that can be applied across states, as well as a provider education packet outlining step-by-step processes for exchanging electronic behavioral health data.