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Electronic health records: essential tools in integrating substance abuse treatment with primary care

Authors Tai B, Wu LT, Clark HW

Received 28 December 2011

Accepted for publication 9 January 2012

Published 9 February 2012 Volume 2012:3(1) Pages 1—8

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/SAR.S22575

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Betty Tai1, Li-Tzy Wu2, H Westley Clark3
1Center for Clinical Trials Network, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda, MD, 2Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, 3Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD, USA

Abstract: While substance use problems are considered to be common in medical settings, they are not systematically assessed and diagnosed for treatment management. Research data suggest that the majority of individuals with a substance use disorder either do not use treatment or delay treatment-seeking for over a decade. The separation of substance abuse services from mainstream medical care and a lack of preventive services for substance abuse in primary care can contribute to under-detection of substance use problems. When fully enacted in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2010 will address these barriers by supporting preventive services for substance abuse (screening, counseling) and integration of substance abuse care with primary care. One key factor that can help to achieve this goal is to incorporate the standardized screeners or common data elements for substance use and related disorders into the electronic health records (EHR) system in the health care setting. Incentives for care providers to adopt an EHR system for meaningful use are part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act 2009. This commentary focuses on recent evidence about routine screening and intervention for alcohol/drug use and related disorders in primary care. Federal efforts in developing common data elements for use as screeners for substance use and related disorders are described. A pressing need for empirical data on screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) for drug-related disorders to inform SBIRT and related EHR efforts is highlighted.

Keywords: electronic health records, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2010, primary care, screening, brief intervention, substance abuse treatment, substance use disorders

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