Assessing the Utility of the Healthwise Program in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Programs
Introduction Increasing recognition is being given to comorbidities in individuals with severe mental illness. A report from Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (KCMHSA) has shown that, compared to the general population, there is a higher prevalence of comorbidities among those with mental illness in Kalamazoo county, Michigan. In addition, this population is less likely to visit a primary care provider and receive preventative care. To improve provision of health information to clients and enhance appropriate use of health care, KCMHSA has recently considered the use of Healthwise, a health information database. Purpose of Study The purpose of the study is to assess the utility of the Healthwise program in providing medical information to participants in substance abuse and mental health service programs. Methodology This is an observational study conducted at the Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Five medical students assigned to this service center examined the utility of the Healthwise application among clients with mental illness who were receiving care at the center. Students’ reflections during this period were compiled. The reflections include time spent with patient; utility of app in addressing patient level of engagement, accessibility, patient satisfaction and barriers to implementation of the application. A thematic analysis was conducted. Results Findings from the thematic analysis show that clients were generally satisfied with the process of using Healthwise to provide health information. The estimated time, based on observation, for using the application ranged from 30 minutes to one hour. Also, the reflections showed that clients were highly engaged during the process as rated by the interviewers and the application was easy to use. Some of the observed barriers that may impact implementation were population vulnerability, support for client access to app, inconsistent and small client population, and limited medical knowledge. No overt effects of gender and race were observed. Discussion Findings from this study suggest that the Healthwise application is a useful tool for providing relevant medical information among populations with mental illness. Study participants were satisfied with the process of using this application. However, some limitations identified with the process include unstable client population, nonsupport for client access to application, limited medical knowledge and number of encounters.