Health Information Technology

SAMHSA advances the use of health information technologies to support integrated behavioral health care and its potential to transform the health care system.


Health information technology (HIT) is the management of health information across computerized systems. It involves the secure exchange of health and other personal information among consumers and patients, providers and practitioners, and other entities, such as government agencies and insurance companies. HIT encompasses health systems integration, health information exchange, and the use of electronic health records (EHRs). It also encompasses the use of electronic training, assessment, treatment, monitoring, and recovery support tools.

HIT has the potential to transform the health care system by improving the health and well-being of the people in the United States. HIT will continue to impact the quality of care delivery, support patient engagement and self-management, improve the efficiency of the workforce, and expand access to care. It is also becoming a critical tool for prevention, wellness, and recovery support.

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health (HITECH) Act are driving increased use of HIT to support the delivery of safer, high-quality, and more efficient health care. In partnership with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), SAMHSA will promote the development, dissemination, and effective use of HIT to support prevention, treatment, and recovery in the behavioral health community.

Compared to the general health care sector, adoption rates of EHRs and HIT are significantly lower among behavioral health care providers due to a lack of resources and the necessary expertise as well as the ineligibility of most behavioral health care providers for EHR meaningful use incentives.

HIT is an important part of providing integrated treatment by linking together programs, services, and providers. HIT can help behavioral health providers:

  • Communicate and collaborate with other providers and programs
  • Track the progress of those who leave a program and monitor when and if additional services are needed
  • Reduce redundancy between programs and providers
  • Improve the quality of care
  • Increase access to services and support

Promoting the widespread implementation of HIT systems that support quality, integrated behavioral health care while protecting the privacy of consumers is a SAMHSA priority. SAMHSA is focusing on three standards regarding the use of HIT and its impact on patient data and privacy:

  • Integrity—Collecting accurate information
  • Confidentiality—Limiting access to the information to only those who need to use it
  • Availability—Making the information accessible to those who are authorized and have a need to use it

Learn more about:

Health Systems Integration

SAMHSA is working to ensure that the behavioral health system—including states, community providers, patients, peers, and prevention specialists—fully participates with the general health care delivery system and specifically in the adoption of HIT. Critical to health care systems integration is the advancement and broad connectivity of electronic health information and interoperability of HIT across service systems that deliver true system reform and enable value-based purchasing. Interoperable HIT spans health care settings, communities, and homes and should enable the transformation of care delivery in a way that enhances access and advances health beyond the confines of the health care system.

This will help practitioners across the spectrum provide:

  • High-quality integrated health care
  • Appropriate specialty care
  • Improved patient and consumer engagement
  • Effective prevention and wellness strategies

Learn more about SAMHSA’s work in Health Care and Health Systems Integration.

Health Information Exchange (HIE)

HIE is the transfer of health information electronically across multiple organizations. Exchanging health information is important to make sure that health care providers have access to the most up-to-date information about patients so they can make more informed decisions about their care. HIE can improve the coordination of care for a person who is seeing multiple providers by enabling providers to share important health information if authorized by the patient in compliance with state and federal privacy laws and regulations.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

Currently, most providers maintain medical information as paper records in offices. When a person is hospitalized or sees a specialist, each provider maintains a separate record.

An EHR, in its simplest form, is a digital version of those paper records.

Creating digital versions of those records serves many purposes. EHRs help:

  • Track data over time
  • Easily identify patients due for preventive screenings or checkups
  • Monitor and improve overall quality of care within a practice
Last Updated: 09/29/2014