Behavioral Health IT: Toward Seamless Care for California's Kids

Thomas Tinstman and Steven DeMello, Health Technology Center

Behavioral health care for California's youth tends to be fragmented and poorly coordinated, due in part to reliance on paper records. Information systems tailored to behavioral health care could improve the effectiveness of these services.

March 2009

Behavioral health care for California's youth is delivered through a complex network of public and private entities. Services tend to be fragmented and poorly coordinated due in part to reliance on paper records. Information systems tailored specifically to behavioral health care could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these services.

This report examines the current status, challenges, and opportunities for behavioral health information systems, particularly electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs), that support government-sponsored mental health services for children and adolescents in California. It focuses on young people because they are the most diverse segment of the mental health care population in terms of their service needs and the array of provider types that serve them.

California's 58 counties, with guidance and funding from the state, are implementing a variety of behavioral health information technologies. The report shows that each county is following an independent path toward adoption, that most are implementing a basic EHR, and that the lengthy process entails many challenges, some of which are unique to behavioral health care. However, there are also many opportunities — among them, to standardize data and terminologies, build county collaboration, adopt consumer-centric information technologies, establish privacy and security policies, develop outcomes measures, set reporting standards, and share knowledge.

The complete report is available under Document Downloads.