Reform Means Planning for Healthcare System Wellness

Wellness is not simply an absence of illness, it is an active process of becoming aware, planning for, and carrying out healthy choices that bring about positive change.

Understanding and maintaining wellness is critical in every one of our lives – and in the lives of the people we serve who are recovering from mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

As members of the behavioral health community, we must engage in the active process of becoming aware, planning for, and carrying on the hard work of healthcare system reform. This kind of healthcare system wellness is our responsibility. Federal healthcare reform legislation is a big step in the right direction. However, maintaining wellness is an ongoing process. In considering the wellness of our healthcare system there are several dimensions we as providers and consumers of healthcare services should be attending to. These dimensions of healthcare system wellness include funding, health information technology, service provision, quality improvement and research. Some examples of the planning and activities we can take part in.


– Reform the payment system to stop the promotion of paying for procedures and replacing it with payment based on the quality care.

– Aggressive reform of billing practices that stymie providers from making the necessary changes to create seamless healthcare services. Including funding for coordination of care, case management, transportation and allowing providers in every state to bill for more than one service in a day in the same clinic.

Health Information Technology

– The development of patient registries for the uniform collection of clinical and administrative data. Registries will allow for better monitoring and continuity of care while helping to make the business case for behavioral and primary care services integration

– Making sure that our electronic health records are compliant with Health Level Seven (HL7) international interoperability standards. Required by the US Department of Health and Human Services, these standards will enable electronic medical records to exchange, manage and share information between providers.

Service Provision

– Adoption of the healthcare home approach to care. This approach requires a bi-directional care provision which challenges the traditional thinking about how providers work with one another. Specialty mental health and primary care providers must reach out to one another and work in a coordinated fashion to provide disease management services for people with severe mental illness and/or substance use conditions.

– The implementation of wellness programming as a Medical Home standard of care for all people diagnosed with a severe mental illness and/or substance use condition.

– The expansion of peer-led wellness programming as an effective way to promote healthy living and care coordination.

– Improving the surveillance capacity at the state and local levels. This includes the ability to provide early identification of mental and substance use disorders as well as the morbidity and mortality tied to these conditions.

Quality Improvement

– The training of staff in the use of lean techniques for quality improvement. These approaches build on the Plan-Do-Study-Act model to rapid cycle improvement for services monitoring and enhancement.

– The continued standardization of screening and treatment processes through the use of evidence-based practices and validated measures.

– With the development of sophisticated electronic medical records healthcare organizations have more access to data than ever before. Learning how to use data to monitor and create positive change in our organizations is required if we are going to succeed in this new age of healthcare.


– Every year billions of tax dollars are spent on research that is directly related to the services we provide to consumers and their families every day. It is only through engaging the research community in a discussion about how to better work together that practice can become informed by research and research by practice.

The behavioral health community has come together to help make Healthcare Reform a reality. Maintaining these gains while continuing to improve the behavioral healthcare system requires we become engaged in the activities inherent to wellness, namely awareness building, planning and the continued hard work that comes from creating high quality services.