MeHI Grants Aim to Improve Electronic Reporting of Child Behavioral Health Data

Aug. 22, 2017

The Boston-based Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) at MassTech has awarded nearly $200,000 to four qualified electronic health record (EHR) vendors to build pathways for Massachusetts behavioral health providers to electronically submit reportable data to the Commonwealth’s Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI).

MeHI, the state’s entity for healthcare innovation and technology responsible for advancing the dissemination of health IT throughout the state, says the installation of the new technology will reduce reporting hurdles, allowing providers more time to focus on child wellness.

The grants, the result of an open procurement process under MeHI’s CBHI CANS (Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths) Interface Development Grant program, incentivize the four vendors to build new electronic interfaces and connect 12 Massachusetts behavioral health providers, allowing the providers to efficiently submit CBHI reports, replacing a manual process for the roughly 40,000 reports they submit to the Commonwealth annually.  

“These awards continue MeHI’s focus on improving access and use of technology to help behavioral health practices across Massachusetts,” Laurance Stuntz, MeHI’s director, said in a statement. “CANS reports are an important tool to help manage care for some of the state’s most vulnerable children, but the manual process took valuable provider time and distracted from patient care. These investments will help automate much of the reporting process, allowing providers to conserve hundreds of staff hours each month and stay focused on patient-care, rather than data entry.”

According to MeHI, the grant program stemmed from stakeholder meetings which identified inefficiencies in the work flows at behavioral health providers and recognized the role technology could play in alleviating the issue. Based on that input, MeHI developed and launched a Request for Proposals in October 2016 seeking EHR vendors that work with Massachusetts behavioral health providers to develop a new CANS HL7 interface that will extract the CANS data from an organization’s EHR system, compile the data according to program specifications, and then automatically submit it to the Commonwealth’s CBHI CANS system via the Mass HIway.

After a full review of the proposals, MeHI awarded grants totaling $193,000 to four EHR companies to support development and installation of the interfaces at 12 behavioral health organizations across Massachusetts:

The CBHI system is a court-mandated program in Massachusetts that requires clinicians providing behavioral health services to children under the age of 21 to submit critical patient data so that the state can accurately assess the needs of this patient population. CBHI’s mission is to ensure that children under the MassHealth system who have significant behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs receive the services they need to ensure success at home, school, in the community, and throughout their everyday life.

The MeHI program is estimated to impact over one-fifth of the 15,000 CANS reports that are submitted monthly to CBHI from across the Commonwealth. To address this reporting requirement in the past, clinicians gathered patient data via the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment tool that was tracked in their EHR system and then manually re-entered that same information into the Commonwealth’s “Virtual Gateway” in order to submit the information to the state, a process which takes two hours of staff time per patient per quarter, making it extremely time-intensive and open to data-submission errors.

“From what I can see already, this upgrade will have a tremendous benefit to how we handle patient records,” Scott Turton, director of health information systems at Gosnold on Cape Cod, said. “Before it was a very involved, multi-step process to submit these reports. This new interface is much more streamlined, as the data is pulled directly from the patient’s existing electronic record, compiled by this new interface, and then submitted from the new interface directly to the state.”

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