at creating information systems for M/SU health care well coordinated with NHII initiatives. M/SU health care also lags behind general health care in its use of information technology (IT). To realize the potential of the NHII for consumers of M/SU health care, NHII initiatives and public-sector efforts to develop specialized information systems for M/SU health care need to take advantage of each other’s expertise and capabilities. Doing so will ensure that the NHII provides relevant information to M/SU health care consumers, providers, payers, and oversight organizations, and that providers serving in both the public and private sectors do not face redundant or conflicting information demands. The committee recommends actions to (1) coordinate the activities of the NHII and public-sector M/SU IT initiatives, (2) bring M/SU expertise to the development of the NHII, and (3) support individual M/SU clinicians in their use of IT.


Crossing the Quality Chasm (IOM, 2001) and several preceding and subsequent reports from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the federal government, and leading private-sector organizations (IOM, 2004; National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, 2001; Thompson and Brailer, 2004) emphasize the vital role of information technology (IT) in the safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equity of health care. These organizations and many others find that a strong IT infrastructure is crucial to:

  • Supporting consumers in illness self-management and marketplace choices.

  • Supporting providers in the delivery of evidence-based clinical care.

  • Coordinating care across clinicians, settings, and time.

  • Facilitating performance and outcome measurement.

  • Educating clinicians.

An example of the role of IT in achieving improved quality of care is presented in Box 6-1.

In addition to its uses in coordinating care, IT has begun to be used to support the delivery of treatment for mental and substance-use conditions—over the World Wide Web, by e-mail, and through other technology-mediated interactions (Flanagan and Needham, 2003) (see Chapter 7). Determination of research priorities and public policy decisions about the best allocation of scarce public dollars also can be facilitated through

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