Bringing Home the Value of Health IT


Begin a conversation with, “I’d like to talk to you about machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge” and you can expect the listener to act like they’ve just been given the cure for insomnia. Let’s begin the conversation about National Health IT Week with concepts such as equal access to care, treatment of the whole person, research support and reduced documentation time. That’s the value of health IT. This value is being realized by organizations like KVC Health Systems, Henderson Behavioral Health and Cohen Veterans network.

“The biggest fear about someone out there is that they don’t have equal access, whether it’s behavioral or physical, to the care and services that they need,” says James Roberson, LMSW, vice president of program services for KVC Hospitals. “Thirty or 40 years ago there were people who never even went to the doctor. Now the connectivity gives them immediate access.” Obstacles ranging from distance to even inconvenience can be surmounted because care comes to them.

Henderson Behavioral Health CEO, Dr. Steven Ronik echoes that point and shares a tangible example of how they’re able to provide whole person care utilizing a computer tablet, an app and the myAvatar® CareRecord™ electronic health record. The advantage: People receiving mental health services can now have physical healthcare more easily brought to them.

Cohen Veterans Network (CVN) was launched in April of this year with an ambitious plan to provide free, comprehensive mental healthcare to post-911 veterans and their families.

Anthony M. Hassan, Ed.D., LCSW, is the CEO of Cohen Veterans Network and he’s intent on making the organization a “learning mental health system” using data analytics. CVN will adapt and innovate by monitoring treatments and outcomes in their CareRecord.

“We can run randomized control trials because we’ll have data that really helps us understand the benefits of complementary and alternative treatments,” says Hassan. “It’s a game changer.”

And since National Health IT Week is all about having conversations about technology, let’s examine a solution that captures conversation and turns it into usable data. KVC is an early-adopter of integrated speech recognition technology (M*Modal Fluency Direct®) which initially allowed doctors, therapists and caseworkers to dictate their progress notes in a way that’s much more efficient and consistent than traditional dictation. But Roberson says speech recognition technology has also given them “a level of confidence about the electronic health record that’s hard to put a value on.”  What about the time savings? 

National Health IT Week is much more than a discussion about technology and equipment. Here’s to continued conversations about the many values of health IT and the promises it holds for the future.

Impossible – Amazing Stories of Recovery

Bill_C_Info-Pic.fwIt’s been rejuvenating to read all the stories being shared as part of Recovery Month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) annual effort to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover. Being reminded of others successes is integral to creating an authentic atmosphere of hope for clinicians and their patients alike. We all feed off each other. That’s what community is about. In my 15-plus years as a licensed, clinical social worker I had the pleasure of seeing countless individuals find a way forward.

As my Netsmart colleagues (also former social workers) and I talked, we discovered that each of us had similar experiences. In the interest of stoking the flames of hope, we’ve chosen to share those stories here. One involves my interactions with a man battling schizophrenia.

A second comes from my co-worker Andrew Mersman, who counseled a young girl who was abused.

And finally, we’ll hear from my colleague Joe Kocsis who walked alongside a man who had turned to substance use to cope with a family tragedy.

Please feel free to share these stories individually or the blog as a whole. And remember, impossible is just a word.

The Value of Becoming 1 in a Million – The Mental Health First Aid Movement


It only took eight hours, but it’s changed my perspective on how I see people I interact with in my work and personal life.

Recently my co-workers and I used one of our two volunteer days (what Netsmart calls EveryDayMatters Days) to take the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course and learn more about mental illness and how to help people going through difficult times.  Netsmart is among only a handful of companies nationwide offering this training directly to their associates at work instead of leaving it to us to pursue on our own time.

It’s usually easy to recognize physical illnesses in others. But thanks to MHFA, my eyes were opened to look for signs of mental health or substance use issues in family members, friends and colleagues. More importantly, MFA training equipped me with an action plan to use if I encounter someone who might be in trouble. That’s powerful. It’s got me thinking about what a major difference we can collectively make.

Proudly certified in Mental Health First Aid… one of Netsmart’s first MHFA classes

The breadth and depth of the problem of mental illness is significant. We learned that one in four Americans experience a mental health or addiction disorder each year. The trainers who visited my workplace also shared their personal stories about how mental illness has impacted their lives. Hearing those stories, relating to those stories and understanding how a single, concerned individual can help others chart a new course made a big impression on the 20+ people in our certification class. It’s one thing to hear about the financial costs associated with mental illness in the workplace – business losses of an estimated $80 to $100 million – but to listen to tales of the personal losses inflicted by treatable diseases of the mind…that hits home.

The American Heart Association estimates that about 30 percent of our country’s population is trained in CPR.  But at the beginning of 2016, there were only 660,000 trained in Mental Health First Aid. The National Council for Behavioral Health’s “Be 1 in a Million” campaign’s goal is to train one million people in MFA by the end of the year. I’m thrilled to be able to make a difference as one of those trained to help.