Public Health Includes Mental Health

Each day of the American Public Health Association’s National Public Health Week (NPHW) focuses on a theme considered essential for the future success of public health as a whole: Thursday’s theme is mental health. Mental health is an area of health care that has recently undergone a boom in research and in the development of services. While the advancement in the field is exciting, there are also new challenges that arise with the development of new treatment and services, such as personal data protection.

Collecting and exchanging mental health data, as appropriate, with the care coordination team could lead to better patient outcomes. Developing solutions to safeguard information, only sharing what is needed, is an important element of advancing care and making mental health data a critical component of total patient care treatment.

The PACIO Project is an example of a mental health data collection initiative focused on improving total patient care treatment and is aimed at establishing a framework for the development of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) technical implementation guides (IGs). The IGs will not only provide suggestions for data safeguard strategies but would also provide guidance on how to gather and exchange mental health data among providers, patients, key stakeholders and policy makers. This secure collection and exchange of mental health data will play an imperative role in improving the health outcomes of people who are transitioning between healthcare settings.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that when a person moves between healthcare settings, information on their cognitive status and mental functioning is not received in a timely manner by the new facility. IGs like those developed by the PACIO Project provide steps and rules which ensure that cognitive status and mental functioning data is acquired and delivered to the correct person at the correct time (1). With this information, providers can concentrate on providing the correct patient care and not on gathering duplicate data (1). Additionally, the data are important for research purposes and can be incorporated into datasets which can be analyzed and used to develop more effective treatments.

Focused efforts like the PACIO Project will improve the collection, exchange, and protection of mental health data.