Over the past 9 months we’ve seen treatment programs work extremely hard to adapt through the pandemic. There were a number of places where technology played a crucial role in helping programs be successful. Looking toward 2021, we believe that technology will continue to play an important role in helping treatment programs and behavioral health organizations thrive. The general theme is that purpose built solutions can drive engagement throughout the patient journey. Digital transformation for treatment and behavioral health programs is here and will continue to accelerate over the next few years.
It’s helpful to look at the overall patient journey to find specific phases where a focus on digital engagement can make a meaningful impact. We believe that the admissions process is one part of the journey where digital engagement can be extremely valuable. For most programs 50% of their calls are coming in from family members trying to get help for a loved one. A number of reasons may prevent those conversations from moving forward. Roadblocks to getting a loved one into treatment may only be temporary, but most treatment programs aren’t making real efforts to stay engaged with those families over the long term. The occasional “checking in” phone call or adding them to an email list isn’t going to move the needle. Programs need to position themselves as a long term trusted partner and come up with ways to provide these families something that is helpful, valuable and most importantly something that is consistent. By better supporting families and staying top of mind when barriers to treatment are removed these families will be the first ones calling your program instead of starting the search all over again.
For IOP and lower levels of care, COVID ushered in telehealth solutions which kept the doors open. Whether your program plans to continue utilizing telehealth in 2021 or not, the idea of patient engagement continues to gain traction. How do you engage patients between sessions? How do you know how they are doing? How do you provide them other types of support and resources to help them on their journey? Purpose built digital tools are extremely valuable to help you tackle some of these challenges. The main goals of patient engagement are to improve outcomes, reduce attrition and enhance the overall patient experience. These are investments that ultimately help you to save lives and increase census.
Another area that is “past due” for innovation is the aftercare phase of the patient journey. Many programs still think about alumni outreach in terms of phone calls and picnics. If phone calls and picnics are the primary ways you are engaging with alumni then you are falling short and doing a real disservice to the entire behavioral health industry. Your alumni deserve more and they need more from you. Unfortunately for many programs aftercare = afterthought, and there is no strategic priority placed on this phase of the patient journey. Innovative programs are seeing things differently, they see that alumni engagement is leading to improved outcomes and increased census. They envision new service lines and opportunities to get paid for supporting their alumni in the coming two years. Innovative programs are making these investments today so they are ready to take advantage of opportunities in the future. Impactful alumni engagement is the right thing to do and provides a significant ROI for programs that make it a priority.
2020 made us realize that there are many things we can’t control. Digital transformation is happening within the treatment and behavioral health industry. You can try to slow it down at your program, but you can’t stop it from happening. Instead of fighting this powerful force, you should find ways to embrace it. Look at the overall patient journey and pick a point where you can reimagine the experience and introduce tools to help your patients and your program. Over the past 5 years we’ve had the opportunity to partner with 170+ programs to help them better support patients, families and alumni throughout the continuum of care. Our digital engagement apps are purposely built for treatment and behavioral health organizations. We want to help you be successful in 2021 and beyond by sharing where we see the industry going and how investing in digital tools can be impactful to your patients and your program.