Health Services Research & Development

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Colaiaco B, Roth CP, Ganz DA, Hanson M, Smith P, Wenger NS. Continuity of Information Between Mental Health and Primary Care Providers After a Mental Health Consultation. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2018 Oct 1; 69(10):1081-1086.
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Abstract: OBJECTIVE: Information sharing between mental health providers (MHPs) and primary care providers (PCPs) is important for persons with mental illnesses. The authors determined the level of information continuity between MHPs who saw a patient for a new consult and PCPs and whether continuity varied between providers with and without access to a shared electronic health record (EHR). METHODS: Data were analyzed for 141 randomly selected enrollees in six Medicare Advantage plans receiving a new outpatient mental health consultation in 2012. Medical records of MHPs and PCPs were abstracted to evaluate whether PCP records recognized the consultation, documented mental health hospitalizations and emergency department visits, and acknowledged psychotropic medications. Measures were compared between patients whose providers used and did not use mutual-access EHRs. RESULTS: For 21% of patients, the PCP record documented communication from the MHP within three months of the consultation. The PCP record showed evidence of timely communication (within seven days) for 42% of mental health hospitalizations and emergency department visits. Of 152 medications recorded by MHPs, 103 (68%) were acknowledged in the PCP record by the next visit. For patients with mutual-access EHRs, provider communication about the consultation was documented for a greater percentage of patients, compared with those without mutual-access EHRs (46% versus 11%, p<.001), as was communication about psychotropic medication (100% versus 57%, p<.001). CONCLUSIONS: This small but detailed study of patients receiving new outpatient mental health consults found poor continuity of information between MHPs and PCPs. A mutual-access EHR facilitated but did not guarantee such information sharing.