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How a Substance Use Disorder EHR Can Transform Treatment Centers

How Substance Use Disorder EHR Can Transform Treatment Centers in 2021

The goal of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 was to increase the safety, quality and efficiency of healthcare through the adoption of health IT, such as electronic health records (EHR). Since the act passed in 2009, the number of inpatient and outpatient medical providers that have adopted EHR systems has increased dramatically. 

However, the adoption of EHR and electronic medical records (EMR) has been notably slower among mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers. In particular, substance use treatment providers have historically lagged behind other provider types in the adoption of EHR systems.

It's important to understand the roadblocks providers face when implementing an EHR and the increasing importance of improving care and treatment. Doing so will go a long way toward transforming the substance use disorder treatment landscape and encouraging the adoption of EHR platforms.

What Are Substance Use Disorders?

A substance use disorder is a chronic, treatable disease associated with the problematic use of one or more substances. Those substances can impair a person's mental, physical and emotional health as well as their social functioning. Usually, the symptoms associated with SUD are a combination of physiological, cognitive and behavioral. People with substance use disorder continue to use a substance even though it has a negative impact on their lives. 

Substance use disorder can affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, age, social class or income.

While many associate substance use disorder with illegal drugs, the disorder can develop through misuse of a variety of classes of substances, both legal and illegal, including:

  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Sedatives
  • Opioids
  • Inhalants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Stimulants
  • Hypnotic

The effects of substance use disorder can be felt across all areas of a person's life. Someone dealing with substance use disorder may have difficulty:

  • In their personal relationships
  • On the job
  • In the classroom
  • At home
  • Performing daily activities of living

SUD can be mild to severe and often co-occurs with other behavioral or mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Coordinating care and ensuring clients receive treatment for any and all comorbidities is key. An EHR that enables providers to communicate with each other and the client helps enhance care quality and ensures all of an individual's needs are addressed.

Substance Use Disorder Statistics and Trends

Substance use and SUD are on the rise. In the past year, 53 million people in the U.S. have misused prescription drugs or used illegal drugs. More than 20 million people in the U.S. are dealing with substance use disorder. When alcohol and tobacco are also considered, the number of people dealing with substance use disorder climbs to 165 million. 

SUD can severely impact a person's quality of life. In some cases, it can be fatal. Nearly one million people in the U.S. have died from a drug overdose since 1999. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of annual overdose deaths was increasing. The pandemic has accelerated the fatality rate, leading to a nearly 30% increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020.

Public Perception of Substance Use Disorder

While the increasing number of people with substance use disorder can be discouraging, there are some positive trends and improvements. Public perception of substance use disorder has improved in recent years. In the past, there was a stigma that people with SUD were entirely responsible for their problems. 

Although this stigma does persist in some ways, today there's a greater understanding that SUD is a disease, rather than a character flaw. There's acknowledgement that SUD can affect anyone, and that anyone with SUD deserves appropriate care and treatment.

As the stigma falls away, more people are empowered to seek help for substance use disorder. In addition, providers are more likely to take a client's concerns seriously and strive to provide them with the best possible care. 

The U.S. government has also taken steps to recognize the impact that SUD has on people's lives and improve access to quality care. In early 2022, the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee stated that it would develop legislation to ameliorate and reauthorize substance use disorder and mental health programs. 

The Senate also introduced the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021 to increase access to certified behavioral health clinics, which currently support 1.5 million people in the U.S. The clinics provide personalized care without requiring clients to navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.

Treating Substance Use Disorder

SUD is a disorder that affects each individual differently. For that reason, treatment plans need to be individualized and designed to address each person's unique considerations. When a person is coping with SUD and behavioral health concerns, a coordinated treatment plan may be required. Coordinating care will require a team of providers, and an EMR specifically for substance use disorder can optimize the treatment process and allow for a holistic approach to care. 

Treatment options for substance use disorder include behavioral therapies and medications. More severe cases may require treatment through detoxification. If a client is undergoing treatment for another disorder, whether a mental health or medical condition, it's essential that their SUD provider have access to that information to avoid potential drug interactions or conflicting care. 

Best Practices for Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Treatment for substance use disorder isn't one-size-fits-all. The adoption of an EHR platform enables providers to adhere to best practices when they work with clients. Among these best practices are:

  • Caring for all of a client's needs: For many clients, substance use is just one aspect of their behavioral health needs. Often, individuals will need to be evaluated by multiple providers, each of whom specializes in a particular disorder. Similarly, when required, clients should be given access to care for medical conditions that may occur along with SUD or independently of it. 
  • Treating co-morbidities: Any co-morbidities should be treated along with SUD. Treating co-morbidities will require coordination efforts on the part of a client's care team. 
  • Testing for infectious diseases: The methods of using certain substances can increase a person's risk of exposure to infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis B. A treatment plan should include testing for common infectious diseases and appropriate treatment if required.
  • Treating patients with compassion: Stigma persists regarding the care and treatment of individuals with substance use disorder. It's vital that all members of a care team recognize their clients as people and treat them with compassion. 
  • Tailoring treatment plans to the individual: Every client is different. Some may be more willing to participate in their treatment than others. Treatment plans should be tailor-made for each person, acknowledging their ability and willingness to engage. 
  • Acknowledge the financial aspects of treatment: Depending on the intensity of treatment, the costs may be beyond a client's ability to pay. Insurance coverage may not be available. Providers should seek to provide financially sustainable treatment, acknowledging the billing process and requirements. 

The Role of Electronic Health Records in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

More people are living with substance use disorders, and treatment options have expanded as a result. As coordinated care becomes more critical, the role of electronic health records becomes even more important. With the Core Cx360 EHR Platform, you gain access to the following features.

Client Portal

Patients are important members of their own care team and should be empowered to advocate for themselves. Empowering clients means providing them with access to their electronic medical records, so they can see how their care is coordinated and the recommendations for medications and therapies. 

An EHR with a client portal allows patients access to their treatment records. In return, they are better able to understand the therapy they receive and more likely to take any prescribed medications. Providing access to patient records also strengthens the client-provider relationship, enhancing the trust clients have in their providers. 

Telehealth

One of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a shift to telemedicine or telehealth visits. Telehealth gives clients access to treatment and care even when they cannot visit a provider in person. Expanding telehealth access means that more people will receive the care they need. 

An EHR can simplify telehealth visits and the scheduling process. Providers can set their telemedicine availability in the system and easily communicate meeting times and session locations to clients. During the visit, the provider has access to the telehealth screen and a documentation window. A dual-function interface lets providers record notes while interacting with the individual in real time. 

Access to telehealth offers many benefits to clients, including:

  • Enhanced privacy: Clients may feel more comfortable speaking to their provider virtually from their own home, rather than traveling to a clinic.
  • Reduced stigma: Offering access to telehealth reduces the stigma on SUD and helps patients connect with compassionate providers, even if there may not be any in their local area.
  • Reduced wait times: There's often less of a wait for telehealth compared to in-person visits, meaning a client can get access to medication and therapy sooner.
  • Greater insight into clients' lives: During a telehealth visit, a provider can gather more information about the client's living situation, which can provide additional insight into their SUD and enable a more holistic care approach.
  • Ongoing care: Telehealth appointments allow clients to continue their care and treatment plan when they are unable to see a provider in person.

Billing Support

An EHR platform should include billing support that optimizes the billing process, whether you bill insurance or clients directly. Automatic documentation and timing capture the details you need to accurately bill for in-person or telehealth sessions. Integrated billing support also minimizes errors, such as incorrect CPT codes.

Appointment Scheduling

EHRs help optimize appointment scheduling. Providers can define their schedules in the platform so clients can easily select an appointment slot that works for them. Users can search the platform and schedule appointments based on the service required and the available providers. 

Information Sharing

The interface of an EHR should enable providers to communicate freely, increasing information sharing. One useful feature is a chat function that lets providers in the same practice share information about a client they have in common. Another feature is a discussion board where providers can post messages or ask questions about particular treatments or therapies. 

The goal of an EHR should be to remove obstacles standing in the way of coordinated care. Increasing access to information and facilitating the flow of communication creates a better care experience. 

Benefits of a Substance Use Disorder EHR

The adoption of an EHR specifically for SUD provides multiple benefits to providers. The Cx360 EHR Platform supports avenues for clinical and treatment best practices for substance use disorder. The advantages of using an EHR include:

Streamlined Care

Our EHR platform centralizes patient care records, providing access to client information for authorized individuals. Centralized and streamlined care is particularly important for clients who are receiving care for SUD alongside another condition, such as depression or anxiety.

Less Redundancies

SUD and behavioral health providers often use a combination of electronic and paper-based record keeping. However, a key benefit of an EHR is that it significantly reduces redundancies and avoids miscommunications. 

With an EHR, a provider can quickly see what care a client has already received and what medications they already take or have tried in the past. Access to this information can inform the treatment recommendations they make, minimizing delays and helping the client get on the road to recovery sooner.

Fewer Errors

An EHR significantly reduces errors both in client information and billing processes. The fewer errors a practice makes when inputting billing information, the less time it will have to wait to receive payment. 

Reduced Stigma

Adopting an EHR can go a long way toward reducing the stigma associated with substance use disorder and related treatments. Historically, hospitals and medical practices were quick to adopt EHRs, signaling a genuine need for streamlined care in those fields.

When SUD and behavioral providers also adopt EHR systems, this shows that behavioral health and substance use disorder concerns are legitimate within the healthcare industry. This adoption can help reinforce the fact that SUD has nothing to do with a person's character or personality and everything to do with their well-being.

Enhanced Interoperability

Interoperability enables providers to deliver client-centered care. It also provides patients and providers access to electronic health information, enhancing care management and coordination. 

Our Cx360 EHR Platform is interoperable and delivers three essential features for providers:

  • Electronic storage and collection of client information, including comprehensive medical histories and single-practice medical records
  • Evidence-based tools for planning, treatment and assessment
  • Option to share information with multi-disciplinary providers

How Core Solutions' Cx360 EHR Platform Can Work With Your SUD Treatment Center

Transform your SUD treatment center with the Cx360 EHR Platform from Core Solutions. Our platform offers accessible EHR solutions that reduce provider strain and burnout. To see how it works, contact us to schedule a demo today.