Posted in HIX

Using HIEs to improve care for at-risk youths

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
Using HIEs to improve care for at-risk youths

A services agency in Colorado is working with the organization running that state’s health information exchange on an initiative to improve the care provided for at-risk youths.

The joint project between the State of Colorado Division of Youth  Services (DYS), its 10 medical clinics, and the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) – a non-profit, public-private partnership that implements a health information exchange (HIE) and provides related health IT services – aims to close care gaps for young Coloradans deemed to be at risk.

Since high-risk youths frequently are the products of unstable backgrounds and living situations, they can have complex health histories, and getting the full story can be difficult for their care providers.

“We have a fairly unique population – they often bounce around from place to place, with multiple providers,” says Peggy Baikie, medical operations coordinator for Colorado’s DYS. “They can be poor historians or even be embarrassed to tell us about a medical incident or condition, such as a mental illness or even asthma. The ability to have accurate information on our patients and where their health is at is invaluable. CORHIO is a great addition to help us improve their care.”

In addition to using CORHIO’s information exchange, DYS also is adopting an advanced electronic health record (EHR) system, integrating physical and behavioral health, and seeking new accreditations.

Young people under the care of the state’s DYS fall into two categories, each with a different average length of stay. Youths making their way through the court system stay an average of two weeks and undergo an initial assessment at one of the agency’s health clinics. Convicted youths can stay an average of 15-16 months and undergo a more complex health assessment and examination.

For youths who have been committed and will be in the system for a year or more, the extensive health assessment helps determine which facility they will be placed in. Some facilities, for example, may offer specialized treatment options, such as for substance abuse; if the health assessment reveals a need for it, the youth will be placed in that facility.

“Sadly these are high-risk youth who don’t always take care of themselves,” Baikie says. “We’re looking at these kids from birth to present day, academically, socially, medically, behaviorally, you name it. “CORHIO gives us the opportunity to gear our care treatment appropriately.”

By using CORHIO’s PatientCare 360 web-based portal to view past medical histories, DYS care providers have more information to help patients. Further, if they send a patient offsite to an area hospital for treatment, they are able to see exactly what happened at the facility, including reviewing laboratory results.

“Providers love CORHIO, it saves so much time in trying to track down what’s going on with the youth and it’s easy to use,” Baikie says. “It either validates what the patient said or provides even more information that fills in the blanks.”