Tag Archive for: Substance Abuse EHR Software

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Addiction Fears Rise as Physicians Prescribe More Opioids for COVID-19 Survivors

Health experts claim that COVID-19 survivors are at risk for a potential second pandemic. Since physicians prescribe these patients a high rate of pain pills, going through a second pandemic of addiction to opioids is a very real possibility. Nature put out a new study that found COVID-19 survivors at Veterans Health Administration facilities had distressingly high rates of opioid use that came from helping them deal with lingering illness symptoms.


They found that around 10% of survivors went on to develop a condition known as long COVID. They began struggling with disabling health issues for six months or more after their initial diagnosis. For every 1,000 so-called long COVID patients doctors treated at these Veterans Affairs facilities, physicians wrote nine more opioid prescriptions than they normally would have. Additionally, they wrote 22 additional benzodiazepine prescriptions, including addictive pills to treat anxiety like Xanax.


Previous studies also found that COVID-19 long haulers or survivors experience a myriad of health problems that persist for months. The study’s lead author, Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, found that these COVID-19 survivors are using more addictive prescription medications. Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly is very concerned that even a very small increase in people using addictive opioid medications can and will lead to the opioid crisis resurging due to the big number of COVID-19 long haulers. To date, more than three million of the 31 million survivors end up developing long-term symptoms. These symptoms can include depression, fatigue, anxiety, shortness of breath, and brain fog.


The study also found that several survivors also reported bone or muscle pain. The jump in prescribing opioid medications was surprising due to the very valid concerns about their risk for addiction. Dr. Al-Aly studied over 73,000 patients at Veterans Affairs facilities for his study. He said that the physicians are supposed to think twice about prescribing opioids for the pain.


Dr. Aly-Aly also believes that physicians need to act before it’s too late. The last thing we want is to have another opioid epidemic or a suicide crisis. But, there is a silver lining. Since 2012, new opioid prescriptions have been on the decline as physicians learned more about the medication’s addictive qualities. However, Brandeis University’s medical director of opioid policy research, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, said that doctors in the United States still write prescriptions for drugs like codeine, Vicodin, and OxyContin than doctors outside of the United States.


They also found that some patients who develop an addiction to these opioid medications switch to heroin. This is due to the fact that they either couldn’t get opioids from their doctors via prescription or it was cheaper. The CDC found that overdose deaths continue to rise because drug dealers are now spiking their heroin supply with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a very strong synthetic opioid. During August 2019 and August 2020, more than 88,000 people died due to an overdose. This caused health experts to advise physicians to stop prescribing these opioid medications for long-term usage.


President of the Society of Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Greg Martin, says that COVID-19 patients that get hospitalized due to the illness tend to get much more medication to help control anxiety and pain. This is especially true for those in the intensive care units. For example, patients who end up on ventilators get sedated to help keep them comfortable. Dr. Martin voiced concerns about the findings of this study because the study suggests that COVID-19 survivors are continuing to use medications unnecessarily once they get out of the hospital to help treat persistent symptoms.


Some surviving patients say that they are experiencing bone and muscle pain for the first time when they previously had none. However, other patients say that COVID-19 intensified their preexisting pain sensations to whole new levels.


One such patient is Rachael Burnett. She is a chronic pain patient who has experienced ongoing, chronic pain in her feet and back for over 20 years. This pain stems from a warehouse accident where she used to work. In April 2020, Burnett was diagnosed with COVID-19. Since she received that diagnosis, she claims that her chronic pain is 10 times worse than it originally was. She also claims that her pain spread to her spine and to the area between her shoulder blades.


At the time, Burnett was already prescribed extended-release OxyContin twice every day to help manage her pain levels. Due to her increased pain, her physician prescribed her a second medication called oxycodone. This opioid can help relieve your pain straight away. In December 2020, Burnett was reinfected with a second round of COVID-19.


Dr. Martin said that physicians should recognize that new or an increase in pain levels can be a part of long COVID. He proposes that physicians have to find a non-narcotic treatment option for this pain, just like they would with any other type of chronic pain. The CDC has a list of alternatives to opioid medications. These alternative therapies include biofeedback, physical therapy, antidepressants, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-seizure medication. These therapies can help reduce or relieve nerve pain.


Additionally, Dr. Al-Aly thinks that the United States has to come up with a viable strategy to cope with the patients who have long-term symptoms of COVID-19. He believes that it’s much better to prepare in advance than to get caught off guard in a few years when physicians see a surge in opioid usage. Dr. Al-Aly noted that the study he performed might not accurately capture the full picture of COVID-19 survivors’ needs. For example, most of the patients in the VA system are male while women make up the biggest portion of long COVID-19 patients in most other studies.


The director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, Dr. Eric Topol, said that Dr. Al-Aly’s study made it very clear that healthcare facilities in the United States aren’t ready to meet the three million long COVID-19 patients’ needs. He believes that we need a lot more intervention that will help to effectively treat these survivors. Dr. Al-Aly believes that COVID-19 long haulers may need treatment for years, and that this treatment is going to be a very large burden on the entire healthcare system.

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Telehealth Changes Made Permanent

It appears that the recent spending bill approved by Congress makes the provision of telehealth services permanent. The recent spending bill approved by Congress on December 21, 2020 does a lot to make the provision of telehealth services permanent.  

The new rule allows physicians to provide their first telehealth service to a patient as long as the patient’s last in-person visit was within the past 6 months. The law gives the Secretary the ability to determine eligibility beyond that six-month period. The Secretary has to establish their rules on a calendar year basis, so we shouldn’t have any worries for calendar year 2021.

Based on how that section of the bill is worded, it is apparent that telehealth services to mental health patients will be able to continue receiving telehealth services, even from their home, and that a telehealth service will actually be paid at the same rate as an in-person visit. For SMART and our partners, this is the most important provision of the bill because that was the major barrier to continue telehealth use post-pandemic.

What’s Beyond the Horizon for Telehealth?

Healthcare IT News surveyed 14 Chief Information Officers regarding ways that innovation could fill existing gaps in virtual care. Here’s what they offered in their responses:
Remote monitoring devices: Today we can measure pulse, temperature and oxygen but innovation in devices that can analyze blood, etc., would “bring telehealth to the next level”.
Complete patient engagement: Allow patients to fully interact with a shared screen to make selections, ask questions, interact with images, draw on the screen…a fully-interactive experience with the provider.

Artificial Intelligence: One CIO envisioned an “AI bot” to triage the patient before determining whether a provider should join the call; not based on preset questions, but more of a conversational exchange.

Peppa Pig?: For pediatric telehealth platforms a child would likely be more comfortable interacting with a beloved TV character than a doctor.
User-friendly technology:

One CIO noted that some patients have difficulty navigating the technology. and suggested improvements to make the user interface more friendly. Another envisioned a natural language translator which allows the provider to speak in English, allowing the patient to hear in their preferred language. Add others to the call: If a patient’s support system is not within their home, allowing the patient to pull-in family or others to join the call and offer what he termed “remote help”.

Virtual consult rooms: Two CIOs suggested to allow multiple providers (such as an internist, cardiologist and nutritionist to participate in a call with a patient to simultaneously discuss a health problem. Each would participate, documenting their own notes, offering the patient a “total healthcare experience”. Voice recognition: Using voice recognition for a provider to be able to automatically capture and transcribe notes into the patient’s record. The provider would only need to edit and sign the note later.

Predictive analytics: One CIO envisioned a full “clinician cockpit” with “analytic insights”, sensory and Internet of Things (IoT) data to “take timeliness, efficiency and positive patient outcomes to a new level”.

Everything!: When asked what feature they would like to see most, One CIO responded with “Why have to choose? A digital journey should afford synchronous, asynchronous, with voice, with video, with physiological monitoring, all in a single too. The elements of the tool that are enlisted will depend upon patient choice and clinical need. Today, these are many (largely) different tools.” Contact us today to keep up to date with these and other substance abuse EHR software news.

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Telehealth Is Here to Stay, But Its Future Is Uncertain

Google defines a paradox as “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true”. Let’s take a closer look at the topic of telehealth to get an understanding as to why this is truly a paradox.


It started in the 1960s when “telemedicine” was introduced as a form of healthcare. It was initiated by the needs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be able to monitor patient health remotely. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP):

  • Telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. A physician in one location uses a telecommunications infrastructure to deliver care to a patient at a distant site.
  • Telehealth “refers to a broader scope of remote health care services than telemedicine. Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services.

In the 1970s, Kaiser Foundation International partnered with Lockheed to create “a remote monitoring system capable of providing healthcare delivery”. The pilot program was integrated into a specific rural location without many medical services, enabling providers to send patient information from remote monitoring devices to a distant hospital or medical facility.

Over the next 40 years, telehealth did see some growth, but was consistently hindered by financial, regulatory and technological barriers to wide-spread adoption. It was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and the HITECH Act both instituted reforms that helped to advance technology into the last decade.

In March of 2010, President Obama recognized that part of the technological barrier was the lack of access to affordable broadband services which are the backbone for telehealth. He proposed the “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan” which was intended build and improve “medical networks that facilitate remote patient monitoring, electronic health records, and other technology-based health services such as telemedicine”.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the creation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) established the need for care coordination between multiple providers serving the same patients. Tools for remote monitoring are considered important to care coordination, which is why these are credited with further advancing the adoption of telemedicine.

According to statista.com, telemedicine visit volume grew from 350,000 visits reported in 2013 to approximately 7,000,000 visits reported in 2018. That is an average growth rate of over 1.1 million telehealth visits per year.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, stay-at-home orders were issued in virtually every state that had the adverse side effect of preventing patients from receiving the healthcare services they needed. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) realized this and enabled the use of telehealth by reducing the financial, regulatory and technological barriers. To learn about substance abuse EHR software, contact us today.

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Case to Care Management

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, the changing healthcare marketplace is requiring case managers to become care managers.

Is this happening? Is it a new concept? What’s the difference? Is it related to Health Homes? How important is this for the treatment of persons with substance use disorder? Spoiler alert! This article doesn’t provide the answers. It does provide some history, context and perspectives that could help you formulate thoughts on what the National Council’s proposed paradigm shift might mean for you and your organization.


The notion of “Case Management to Care Management” first gelled for the National Council sometime prior to March of 2013. By then they had already developed an integrated care training program titled entitled “Making the Transition From Case to Care Management”.

In March 2013 the National Council engaged Afia, a Michigan consulting firm which “works with health and human service agencies to generate ideas, implement solutions, and positively impact their futures”, to provide those trainings to behavioral healthcare organizations in more than 20 states.

The National Council’s BH365 blog post by Joan Kenerson King on November 10, 2015, which she titled “On the Road with Case to Care”, provided some context around the applicability of the concept and the purpose of the training.

Their BH365 blog on April 19, 2019 cemented the concept to substance use disorder treatment in their post titled “Introducing an Integrated Care Culture? We Can Help”.

In January 2020 the National Council’s sales and marketing team published an email blast promoting their “Case-to-Care” training.

Since then the COVID-19 pandemic has caused most organizations to refocus their energies on keeping their patients in treatment, providing all the services their patients need and navigating the revenue cycle process to get reimbursed for the services they provided.

Hopefully, we are on the downside of this pandemic and can again raise our gaze to what the future holds.


According to AJ Case Management, the term “case management” has “been around longer and is a more established approach to rehabilitation”. Through their lens, they consider case management “broader” than care management because it “focuses on the care of the patient and creating a smooth transition between different treatments and stages of care”.

The National Council’s perspective, however, is that care management is the broader of the two concepts. They consider care management from the perspective of integrated care, where the paradigm is to manage both physical and mental health of the patient.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 established “Health Homes” to coordinate care for chronic conditions, which certainly includes persons who suffer from substance use disorders.

By 2012 both Rhode Island and Vermont had Health Home programs in place within substance use disorder treatment facilities. Since then, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, at the end of 2015 there were 20 states reporting health homes in place and that continues to grow.

In November 2016 the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health mentions “substance use disorder” 137 times, which establishes that integrated care was already well entrenched in the field of substance use disorder treatment at the time

So, when considered in that context, it is understandable why the National Council’s perspective on care management is at a higher level than case management. And why AJ Case Management considers its case management to be at a higher level than the care management that focuses on coordination of individual services. The expertise needed, role responsibilities and tactics for each of these three roles are considerably different.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) established that “individuals with behavioral health needs may die decades earlier than those without, largely due to untreated and preventable physical, chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity”. We can infer from SAMHSA’s assertion that helping a patient manage their other chronic illnesses as well as their substance use disorder could substantially extend that patient’s life.

Joan Kenerson King, in her “On the Road with Case to Care” post in 2015 states it well: “We are experts at helping people find ways to live in the community in the face of potentially disabling symptoms and economic challenges. However, we often don’t recognize how successful we are, or that those same skills can transfer to the whole health model of care: helping someone manage both physical health issues and address some of the accompanying lifestyle changes that are needed.”

Anyone involved or familiar with substance use disorder treatment knows that a significant barrier to treating the “whole person” is the stigma associated with the substance use disorder treatment. The 42 CFR Part 2 regulations help to reduce the stigmatizing effect of exposing a person’s substance use disorder treatment by requiring the patient’s explicit consent to disclose specific data and by severely limiting those disclosures and disallowing re-disclosure.

This presents challenges, but they are not insurmountable. as Joan Kenerson King closes her blog post, “Upgrading case managers’ skills gives behavioral health organizations a competitive edge in promoting services across the health care system. One person, one team, one organization at a time – leveraging their own resources, working at what can be changed – we have more power than we know.


Having read this far, you are likely not surprised by any of the history or the perspectives. What you should still be pondering, though, is the National Council’s proposed paradigm shift of “Care versus Case Management”.

Afia asserts that “it’s not enough to transform case management – there has to be an agency culture in place to support whole health and wellness”. It truly is a change in paradigm shift for the entire organization, not just the case manager’s position. They offer an insight they title “5 Ways to Walk the Integrated Healthcare Walk”. To illustrate the organizational change, it calls for:

  1. An environment that supports quitting tobacco
  2. Getting rid of unhealth food (e.g. in vending machines)
  3. A professional waiting area that reflects the message of good health
  4. Clinical services that have embedded health strategies as a natural part of treatment
  5. People who provide behavioral health treatment practice good health strategies

While it would change how we work, making this paradigm shift might increase our potential to save lives, which is why we all do what we do.

Resources used:








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Patient Identification, a Problem In Need of a Solution

For a facility that treats a couple hundred patients, each of whom is known to the staff, proper patient identification is only a concern for new patients and identical twins. For large, multi-site treatment providers uniquely and properly identifying patients is a real challenge.

It’s estimated that 8% of all the medical records in the United States are duplicate records, in spite of the fact that many large organizations already use Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) solutions minimize patient identification errors.

The problem is exponentially larger across the spectrum of healthcare in general. Consider that every individual patient must be properly identified by every one of their treatment providers, by each of their insurers, within each software system, at each level, up to and including the national level for specific requirements such as pandemic reporting to the CDC.

The monetary cost of patient misidentification is estimated to be over $6 billion annually across the U.S. healthcare system. This 2016 report provides some non-monetary quantifiers:

  • Misidentification is the cause for 30% of medical errors and 35% of all denied claims.
  • 86% of respondents to the report’s survey witnessed a medical error attributed to misidentification.
  • Identity fraud due to stolen or shared identification cards impacts 2.3 million patients each year which is expected to grow at a rate of 20% annually.

It is remarkable that prior to 1996 the authors of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) foresaw this problem and proposed solving it by requiring use of a unique health identifier for every patient. That mandate was later overruled due to concerns about patient privacy and uncertainty as to whether it would actually help.

Though it was still in discussion as late as 2019, one industry expert suggests that a national patient ID won’t solve the problem, citing that the it is “fundamentally the result of proprietary systems unwilling to integrate or communicate”. He proposes that the solution will require a societal-level solution using “an algorithm-based enterprise master patient index (EMPI), augmented with other technologies, and combined with policies to improve data quality at point of capture”. If that sounds complicated, it is. 

While waiting for society to solve the problem collaboratively, there are things that every provider can do today to improve patient identification internally. Among them:

  1. Implement policies and procedures to improve data collected at time of admission.
  2. Require at least 3 identifiers to be used at every contact and provision of service.
    1. Those might be the patient’s family and given names, address, date of birth, sex, medical record number, individual healthcare identifier, etc.
  3. Ask patients directly to verify their identifiers at every point of contact.
  4. If your organization uses multiple software systems, consider implementing an internal EMPI to ensure that identification is consistent and is maintained across those multiple internal systems.
  5. Leverage data from central patient registries to ensure consistency between organizations.

SMART integrates with central registries in certain locales and can be integrated with others and with EMPI solutions using SMARTBridge™. While these are added-cost solutions, the benefits they offer provide substantial value and reduce both risk and costs of dealing with patient misidentification. For the best in substance abuse EHR software news, keep checking back. 

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Protect Your Patient Data – Someone Is Phishing for You!

What is “phishing“? It’s fraudulent attempts by criminals to steal computer accounts and passwords. The term was coined in the early 1990’s when the internet was young, with only a few million user accounts. Most people today have multiple accounts, providing billions of potential targets today.

Make no mistake, regardless of who you are, the size of your organization or the strength of your technology resources, you are under attack. How can we be so sure? Experience, and taking into consideration the value of the prize: one patient’s medical record could fetch $1,000 on the “dark web“.

Even small, neighborhood clinics are targets now. An unfortunate example is a small ear-nose-throat practice in Battle Creek Michigan that fell victim to a ransomware attack in early 2019, rendering their systems inoperable, losing years of patient data and forcing them to close their doors.

Spam filters and internet security software do improve safety. None can protect you against 100% of the threats. This is especially true for “zero-day threats” and non-computer-based attacks such as cell phone text messages. The strongest protection available is a “human firewall“. It’s you!

The most common form of phishing is done with very realistic-looking, seemingly appropriate emails:

  • Have you received one that looked convincingly like it was from Linked In asking you to confirm your identity?
  • How about one from UPS or FedEx telling you your package was on the way, containing a link to check its status?
  • Did you get one from what looked like your organization’s Information Technology staff, telling you that systems had been compromised and you must change your password!

The realism of these emails is astounding, but there is one simple thing you can do to defeat them:

  • Never click a link directly! Always hover over any link with your mouse and look at the bottom left of your screen to see the actual link. Here are some examples of things to look for: 
    • https://confirm.lnkedin.com (the domain is “lnkedin” rather than “linkedin”)
    • http://tracking.fedex.xt77yq.com (http is NOT secure; the domain not fedex.com)
    • https://IT.yourcompanysite.ru (your company’s site name doesn’t end in “.ru”!)

In general, don’t trust any link you receive in email, text message, or in a document…like this one! The links here are “legit” but use them to practice the hover technique before clicking any of them.

For text messages, it’s usually not possible to confirm the link. Rather than tap on it, avoid it. Enter the actual site address in your browser and access the needed feature from there. For example, if you do need to track a package, visit https://fedex.com and click the “Tracking” link.

The COVID-19 pandemic has actually increased the volume of phishing attacks. Stay safe, be vigilant, protect your data.

Substance Abuse EHR Software,

Rapastinel Being Researched for Treatment of Withdrawal

Symptoms Associated with Opioid Dependence

What is Rapastinel? It was originally developed by Naurex as an alternative to the antidepressant drug Ketamine which has a number of adverse side-effects and a potential for abuse. Unfortunately, soon after acquiring Naurex in 2016, Allergan was soon met with a disappointment as the drug failed in its clinical trials. SMART offers substance abuse EHR software that helps streamline opioid dependance clinics. 

While it failed as an antidepressant, there is renewed interest in it as a potential treatment for withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use disorder, as described in this Duke University research abstract:

Pharmacotherapies, such as buprenorphine and methadone, are used to treat those dependent on opioids. However, these commonly used pharmacotherapies are opioid partial agonists and agonists, so the patient remains in an opioid-dependent state throughout treatment.

Treatment requires long-term tapering with buprenorphine or methadone, during which withdrawal symptoms can occur. These limitations show a clear need for a non-opioid pharmacotherapy. SMART can help your treatment center streamline efforts with substance abuse EHR software

Drugs that target the NMDA receptor have been proposed as alternatives to opioid-targeted pharmacotherapies. The NMDA receptor is involved in the maintenance of opioid dependence and its blockade may reverse the neuroadaptive changes induced by opioid dependence. 

Regulation of the NMDA receptor could accelerate treatment of opioid dependency (Glass, 2011).

Ketamine, an NMDA antagonist, has potential as a treatment, but has associated side effects and potential for abuse. Rapastinel is a novel drug marketed as an antidepressant, and it acts as a partial agonist of the NMDA receptor complex. The negative side effects reported with ketamine have not been reported with rapastinel (Moskal et al., 2016). Since rapastinel acts as a partial agonist and has no reported side effects, it may be a more tolerable treatment option for those dependent on opioids.

Current research is limited only to rodents, but the Duke study is hopeful that the continued success of their research will earn the drug clearance for human trials. Those who provide outpatient medication-assisted treatment with methadone and buprenorphine know the efficacy of the treatment. We also know that only a fraction of those who have opioid use disorders actually receive specialty treatment for it. Why is that? Stigma plays a big part. Others simply “don’t want to be in treatment for life” or, at the very least, are concerned about withdrawal symptoms that come with short-term non-medication-assisted therapies.

AddictionCenter.com, an informational web guide for those who are struggling with substance use disorders, states that “A supervised detox is the first step to treating any type of addiction”. According to NIDA, “When people addicted to opioids like heroin first quit, they undergo withdrawal symptoms (pain, diarrhea, nausea,and vomiting), which may be severe. Medications can be helpful in this detoxification stage”; and “While not a treatment for addiction itself, detoxification is a useful first step when it is followed by some form of evidence-based treatment”. 

Medication-assisted detox treatment is not a new concept. It's widely available, relying mostly upon methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Consider a new drug that is effective, non-addictive, has no risk of abuse and no reported side effects. That could be a game-changer in terms of bringing people who need opioid use disorder treatment into treatment. Might Rapastinel might be that drug? Contact SMART today to learn more about how our substance abuse EHR software offers the leading technology and research to help bring hope back for those suffering from the grips of this disorder, and the facilities dedicated to saving lives during this ongoing epidemic. 

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The Future of Healthcare: What Can We Expect by 2025?

In May, 2019, well before the entire healthcare world shifted its attention to the coronavirus pandemic, two New England trade organizations had convened for their annual Spring conferences: the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) of Massachusetts and the New England chapter of the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Both shared the same central theme, “human benefits”.

Industry expert Kathy Sucich, Director of Marketing for Dimensional Insight in Burlington, MA, attended both conferences and wrote “we will be able to tackle some big issues in the years ahead”. In her May 2019 article for HealthIT Answers she shared these highlights from what speakers at the conference said they would like to see in healthcare by 2025. Her first two points describe problems needing solutions.

The latter two contribute to the solutions:

1. Capturing the patient’s voice is important:

She notes that “Healthcare organizations should see their patients as human beings, which is not the case right now” and offers this example of how this is changing: Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH) will be looking to patient feedback to measure their success “by the difference we make in people’s lives”. She also thoughtfully included consideration the supply chain and billing, neither of which are seen as needing to be patient-focused yet have a definite impact on the patient’s overall experience.

2. Providers need to better understand social determinants of health:

As defined by the CDC, social determinants of health (SDOH) are “the circumstances in which
people are born, grow up, live, work, and age”. She writes that SDOH impact patient’s health as well as their quality of care and that understanding SDOH would help close the gap on the health disparities they cause.

3. Data Literacy is critical:

Health data growths at a rate of 36% annually. That’s astounding. If a bank account earned that
much interest, a $5,000 deposit 20 years ago would be worth $2,343,000 today!
Artificial intelligence and machine learning endeavors demonstrate that data can also have a
huge positive impact in point-of-care decision support and other areas. To reap the benefits, organizations will have to both aggregate their data and develop the knowledge and expertise to act on it.

4.  Big tech companies could make a big impact

Amazon, Google, Apple and others are anticipated to make significant positive contributions to
healthcare over the next few years, but they could also disrupt the industry. She cites Amazon,
which has a supply chain that could cause an impact on hospital purchasing.

The problems are not new. Consider these philosophical maxims from William Osler (1849-1919), a Canadian-born physician, which are over 100 years old:

1. “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the

2. “It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has”.

Osler’s maxims are just as pertinent today. The first indicates that the patient comes first. The second speaks to social determinants of health. In the substance abuse treatment industry, providers typically “walk the talk” when it comes to both. We do put the patient first. It is also widely accepted that “social determinants of health are increasingly recognized for their important influence on health outcomes”. (Williams, et al, Jul 2019) As Sucich points out, human benefits include not only the patient but also the physicians who treat them. A Mayo Clinic reports that 44% of physicians experience symptoms of burnout and a New England Journal of Medicine survey showed that 95% of medical professionals agree burnout is an issue ( Etactics, Nov 2019 ). The top two factors of burnout are administrative tasks and too little time with patients, both strongly influenced by demands of technology. ( PatientPop, Aug 2019 )

At SMART, we are proud of our history of prioritizing human benefits with our substance abuse EHR software, having always put the patient first and prioritized our associate’s satisfaction. Why is it, then, that for more than a decade the healthcare industry at large has dedicated itself to the advancement of technology rather than the human elements? It’s the need for data.

In order to treat the whole person, all their providers need to know the whole person. That requires all of them to both gather and share of data, which requires technology. Congress, realizing that, enacted the HITECH Act in 2009 which resulted in a feeding frenzy for the $18 billion of funding for the adoption and use of technology, mostly within primary care, hospitals and large medical organizations.

After more than a decade, it’s finally safe to say that “the technology exists”. Now is the time for the healthcare world to shift its focus back to human benefits, something that has always been important for those who care for patients suffering from substance use disorder. Our substance abuse EHR software puts the focus back on human benefits.

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In March 2019, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report titled “Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Saves Lives”. It can be read for free online here or purchased as an eBook from The National Academies Press.

The 156-page report arrives at these seven conclusions (sourced directly from the report linked above):


  • Opioid use disorder is a treatable chronic brain disease.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved medications to treat opioid use disorder are effective and save lives.
  • Long-term retention on medication for opioid use disorder is associated with improved outcomes.
  • Lack of availability or utilization of behavioral interventions is not a sufficient justification to withhold medications to treat opioid use disorder.
  • Most people who could benefit from medication-based treatment for opioid use disorder do not receive it, and access is inequitable across subgroups of the population.
  • Medication-based treatment is effective across all treatment settings studied to date. Withholding or failing to have available all U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved classes of medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder in any care or criminal justice setting is denying appropriate medical treatment.
  • Confronting the major barriers to the use of medications to treat opioid use disorder is critical to addressing the opioid crisis.


If you’re reading this, you most likely have experience in the provision of OUD treatment services and were nodding your head in agreement at each one of the conclusions as you read it.

Evidently, Mark Parrino, President of AATOD, agrees…to a point. In his May 2019 analysis of the report he says that the report is both “thoughtful and comprehensive” and suggests “the report has great value and should be widely read“.

However, he also expresses disapproval of the term “Medication-Based Treatment”, as it pertains to opioid use disorder, and disagrees with some of the report’s recommendations for which he says are “divorced from the evidence stated in the report and there are contradictions in different sections of the recommendations“.

Over 15 years ago, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) coined the term “Medication Assisted Treatment” (MAT) indicating that clinical support services should be used in conjunction with the medication.

While the report projects an understanding that opioid use disorder is a complex disease and not simply a neurological disorder, Mr. Parrino notes that “Like most complex illnesses, it has a number of behavioral components.” and asserts that “this represents a contradiction in the approach of medication being the treatment“.

As for the report’s recommendations, he specifically disagrees with this assertion in the report’s assertion in its seventh conclusion that a major barrier to treatment is “Current regulations around methadone and buprenorphine, such as waiver policies, patient limits, restrictions on settings, and other policies that are not supported by evidence or employed for other medical disorders.

Mr. Parrino suggests “The true limitation to access to the availability of OTPs are based on zoning board restrictions, legislative interventions, moratoriums on opening new OTPs and the lack of third-party reimbursement.

Agree or disagree with its recommendations, one thing this study’s conclusions do is prove that these are not just beliefs of people involved with opioid use disorder treatment…they are facts.


substance abuse ehr software

SMART Software COVID-19 Support Announcement

As COVID-19 makes its way across the globe, it’s affecting our communities in different ways. One that is acutely affected is the healthcare community. As we continue to monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments closely, the health and well-being of our clients, partners, and our employees is of utmost importance to us. As a partner to your business, we also understand the critical need to limit any impact this health event could have on our service to our clients. We are focused on our preparedness efforts to maintain a safe work environment for our staff while also sustaining business operations.

Our leadership is working to ensure our ability to continue essential work and deliver the products and services you rely on. We plan to continue to serve you 24/7, as you serve your patients through this time of crisis. We have a plan in place that is managed by a dedicated team who are committed to keeping our operations running smoothly so that we can provide you with the best possible service. This is an unprecedented situation. We are following the lead of the CDC with regard to important COVID-19 containment precautions, such as limiting travel and maintaining social distance.

Our plan includes the following:

  • We have ensured that our staff can work from home as needed in order to prevent the spread of any illnesses so that we can continue to provide support 24/7 for all customers.
  • All Tier 1 and Tier 2 customer support teams are able to perform their roles remotely while still maintaining proper levels of security and privacy.
  • We ask that you continue to use our Software Support portal to submit incidents. We will continue to operate as normal.


We hope you, your families, and staff stay healthy through this time. If you have additional questions, please contact your Partner Success Manager.

In the case of an emergency, please call 800.942.4540 or 401.780.2300.