Medsphere Systems Corporation, the leading provider of affordable and interoperable healthcare information technology (IT) solutions and services, today endorsed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act signed into law by President Trump on October 24. After losing more than 70,000 Americans to drug addiction in 2017—almost 50,000 of whom succumbed to an opiate overdose—it is encouraging to see the federal government provide funds to fight this epidemic.
But this crisis won’t be remotely alleviated if the SUPPORT Act is not followed by additional funding, long-term programs at state and local levels, and additional efforts to shore up rural healthcare and ameliorate the desperation experienced by so many Americans.
With that preface, Medsphere encourages Congress to take additional steps beyond the initial $6 billion devoted to opioid addiction, which also incorporates financial incentives for electronic health record (EHR) adoption by behavioral health providers. To hasten the development of a functional national healthcare IT network, Congress should also consider communication between healthcare IT platforms and alternative approaches to the provision of therapy in rural and underserved areas.
“We’re gratified to see this attention to the problem of addiction in America, and our appreciation goes out to the federal government,” said Medsphere President and CEO Irv Lichtenwald. “While we are hopeful about the benefit this legislation can create, the opioid crisis is only the most recent spike in America’s seemingly perpetual behavioral health conundrum. Knowing that, we ask that Congress devise and fund a long-term program oriented around local programs that begins to truly heal this tear in the American social fabric.”
At this juncture, Medsphere suggests a long look at HL-7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) standard. The FHIR standard has emerged as the frontrunner and is being embraced with greater frequency by vendors and their clients. Congress might also consider an incentive program for the adoption of telehealth solutions, which could potentially make behavioral health and other types of care available in the areas where hospitals are few and psychiatrists are nonexistent.
We urge both to spend additional time and money, and to consult with state and community leaders nationwide, while crafting a national behavioral health improvement plan that takes into consideration the various factors that gave rise to the opioid crisis. Without more comprehensive planning, a similar crisis in the near future seems inevitable.