New App Easing Behavioral/Medical Integration

By Jodi Andes, Associate Editor
July 31, 2017

app for medical integrationIf behavioral and medical specialists agree that there needs to be more integration of patient information, why is information commonly still delayed – if it is shared at all – between the two professions? It is a question many psychologists ponder, but few have done anything about until now.

A group of practitioners with the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA) set out to find a reason for the disconnect two years ago. They noted that although software and applications were on the market, there were still security issues or the programs didn’t fit many psychologists’ needs.

So a PPA committee took action on its own, teaming with CedarBridge Group, a Portland-based technology company, to design and build a system that can be used as an app on mobile devices or accessed through a website. Their creation, called CareApprove plug-in, uses basic, accepted psychological screening for patients and then allows sharing information with the click of a button.

“There are a bunch of half-way systems, but it is almost never being done,” Dan Warner, Ph.D., said of routine integration. Warner is chair of the PPA’s Integrated Care Committee and not only wanted something that had broad-base appeal, he was anxious to have psychologists make up for lost time.

“We don’t want to be left behind by medicine, which has become very digital. If we can’t become part of that system our field will be left behind.”

The system is in its second beta testing with four psychology practices sharing with eight medical physicians.

Vincent Bellwoar, Ph.D., a past-president of PPA, is chief executive officer at Springfield Psychological, which has utilized the program for a month on a subset of patients and clinicians.

“As a large outpatient behavioral health practice that has rapidly expanded into co-located PCP (Primary Care Physician) settings, we see the importance that PCPs now place on receiving behavioral health information.  We are very excited about the development of an app that allows for the smooth transmission of simple patient data directly into the PCP’s EHR (electronic health records). The CareApprove app offers a solution to the challenge of having the medical side appreciate the value of the behavioral health professional’s role in the overall health care of the patient.”

The program starts with a patient health questionnaire that collects information about the patient and calculates the results using a commonly accepted depression screening tool. The software then offers recommendations for integrated care.

Psychologists are sent an email or text  message when a patient completes a questionnaire, though no confidential information is included in the message. Practitioners then have to log in to see the results.

“It doesn’t tell you how to do therapy. It helps to explain to the PCP how often therapy could be happening and broad options for medication,” Warner said.

CedarBridge said in a release that a grant is being sought for the third phase of the software’s development.

At this point, there is no cost for the beta test. If psychologists are later charged for the app, any profits would go back into continued development of applications for psychologists, Warner said.

The PPA’s commitment to the software was approved and planned for even with changes in leadership. David Rogers, Ph.D., spearheaded forming the committee and finished his term in June. “PPA has a vision for being proactive in its support and development of methods to assist Pennsylvania’s psychologists by staying ahead of the demands of the changing health care landscape,” Rogers said.

PPA’s new president, David Zehrung, Ph.D., said he looks forward to watching the app develop.

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