Murphy Administration Invests $6 million in Health Information Technology to Address the Opioid Epidemic

The New Jersey Department of Health and New Jersey Department of Human Services today announced $6 million in funding to support behavioral health providers implementation of electronic health records in their facilities and connection to other health care providers through the New Jersey Health Information Network (NJHIN).

“The key winners here are patients with addiction. Equipping substance use clinics with modern electronic records, and connecting those records together into a single network with hospitals and other clinic types, allows clinicians access to the full scope of information when patients come in for care,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “This leads to better care decisions that can be life-saving—especially for patients that come in right after an overdose. It also allows case managers, navigators, and recovery coaches to coordinate care more easily.”

The Substance Use Disorder Promoting Interoperability Program (SUD PIP) goal is to enhance coordination among substance use disorder providers and the rest of the health care system by providing them increased access to electronic health records (EHR) and promoting interoperability among them, which are critical elements in New Jersey’s strategy to address the opioid crisis. SUD providers currently do not have adequate electronic health record systems. Approximately 60 percent of SUD providers in New Jersey surveyed by New Jersey Association of Mental Health & Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) in an NJ Human Services-supported study, reported they will require new platforms or upgrades.

“Prompt and secure exchange of health information among health care providers is key to delivering quality health care. For too long, there hasn’t been the same focus and investment in the technology capacity of substance use disorder treatment providers as there has been for other providers,” said New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “As part of our comprehensive strategy to combat the opioid epidemic, the Murphy Admiration is changing that by investing in electronic health records for behavioral health care providers.”

Implementing EHR technology allows SUD providers to efficiently capture and store data in a structured format that, with the proper privacy and security processes in place, can be easily retrieved, shared and transmitted to assist in patient care, monitoring and recovery.

In addition, this initiative has the potential to improve the coordination between SUD providers and physical health providers. For individuals with SUD—many of whom also have physical health co-occuring illnesses, this type of coordination is essential to ensure a holistic approach to treating the complex health and social needs of this population.

The NJHIN is a shared services platform that provides the infrastructure for electronic sharing of patient health information among healthcare providers, health information exchanges and state health data sources. This network connects regional health information exchanges and independent medical facilities, which are currently sharing data among local healthcare providers including hospitals, doctor’s offices, Federally Qualified Health Centers and laboratories.

Due to limitations in federal statute, addiction providers have generally not been able to participate in the federal Promoting Interoperability Program or meaningful use incentive programs. With this funding, the Department of Health’s goal is to support the adoption of EHRs and the promotion of interoperability among 120 providers.

Under the direction of the Department of Health, in close collaboration with the Department of Human Services, New Jersey Innovations Institute (NJII) will be leading the project management and implementation of this project in partnership with the NJAMHAA.

"The fact is we all know there is a national opioid crisis,” said Tomas Gregorio, Senior Vice President, NJ Innovations Institute. “In New Jersey, one of the biggest hurdles to combating this epidemic is the ability to share patient information between healthcare providers. Promoting secure interoperability between providers' electronic health records via the NJHIN is one of the most effective tools for delivering critical information when needed most."

“Substance use treatment providers are finally going to receive a much-needed financial boost to assist them with adopting and implementing electronic health record systems,” said June Noto, VP of IT, HR and Administrative Services, NJAMHAA. “NJAMHAA is excited to be a part of this new incentive program to advance providers to the next level of care coordination and to be a part of promoting interoperability.”

NJII will be hosting a webinar on May 1st for behavioral health providers interested in participating and will provide more details on the program.