Why Addiction Organizations Need to Rethink Their Telehealth Strategy

woman viewing telehealth appointment on computer

Rethinking Telehealth

Although addictions organizations implemented technology and processes at the height of the pandemic to continue caring for clients, the processes they chose and continue to use are disconnected, manual, and burdensome for providers, administrators, and patients alike. Two years into the pandemic, and providers and administrators continue to rely on point products to deliver the comprehensive addictions treatment that is greatly needed by patients. This is especially true as more than 41% of adults report having at least one adverse mental health reaction in the past year, and more than 63% of patients put off mental health treatment during the pandemic. Addictions organizations need to rethink how they deliver scalable virtual addictions treatment to manage the influx of new and returning patients.

But what does “rethinking virtual treatment delivery” mean? For addictions organizations and their staff, it means asking “why”; why do we continue to leverage disconnected systems and processes to deliver virtual treatment, if we know it creates a negative patient and staff experience? To escape this cycle, leaders and their staff should consider embracing comprehensive telehealth solutions to offer better care than what they do now. To provide comprehensive care to more patients, organizations can think about:

Leveraging one solution to connect the virtual treatment experience from admissions to ongoing care.
Looking outside of the traditional inpatient treatment option to engage patients through more than a video call. Using technology to drive staff efficiency, which improves clinical outcomes and care quality.

The next section examines why a single, comprehensive telehealth solution powers a better patient experience, and why more efficient care is essential if addictions organizations are going to keep up with demand.

End to end care requires an end-to-end solution

As we established, there are nuances to delivering virtual addictions treatment that point products and manual processes do not offer. These steps include admissions and booking, care delivery, asynchronous care through files and homework, and ongoing care in alumni or aftercare programs. Although organizations can still deliver these steps, it is much harder to do so in a scalable and effective way with disconnected products and processes. Unlike point products that do only one thing at a time– and manual processes that take so much time away from client care– a comprehensive telehealth solution enables providers to effectively and easily care for patients at every step of their journey.

A recent study suggests that a comprehensive telehealth experience “for the treatment of alcohol use disorder is associated with reduced drop out, reduced alcohol consumption, higher abstinence rates, and high patient satisfaction” compared with treatment through just a single video call.” A virtual treatment program needs to be powered by more than a simple video conference solution and requires organizations to digitize and automate their treatment programs from start to finish to boost clinical outcomes and enhance care delivery. Building a better telehealth strategy not only affects patients and their healthcare outcomes, but it also helps organizations retain more clients because patients simply cannot get the same comprehensive virtual treatment experience elsewhere.

Deliver a better experience to boost acquisition and retention

To overcome economical, geographical, and lifestyle challenges associated with inpatient treatment, addictions organizations should look to invest in complete telehealth solutions that focus on evolving their business with virtual, affordable, and competitive services.

Not only will this evolution help patients, but it will surely help organizations scale their operations to treat patients they never would have otherwise. Now, organizations can evolve their services to include virtual intensive outpatient programs with features such as group virtual therapy, instant messaging, content, and more. Patients across state lines, who seek unique addictions treatment, or patients looking for aftercare programs can now get the same, if not better care and experiences, through virtual treatment that fits their lifestyle.

For example, Shane Saltzman, CEO of Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centers says, “since we’ve been able to deliver comprehensive and unique treatment programs through OnCall, acquisition has increased and triple the number of graduates are participating in aftercare services than in previous years.” Trafalgar has grown 300% since 2020 through OnCall’s patient engagement and acquisition tools.

Driving efficiency through technology

If addictions organizations are going to care for 50 to 175 times the number of patients they treated prior to the pandemic, they need to arm themselves with tools that not only help them provide the best virtual treatment and patient experience but maximize staff efficiency overall.

Interestingly, healthcare labor costs are set to exponentially increase in 2022, even more than the average $24 billion dollars healthcare systems are already paying today. But how can leveraging a comprehensive telehealth solution increase efficiency for staff? Firstly, with comprehensive telehealth solutions, organizations have the opportunity to automate complete workflows for their providers and administrators. This includes admissions, onboarding, content, and insurance billing to name a few. Switching to a digital-first and automated experience reduces the time staff spend on manual tasks like data entry into multiple disconnected systems or spreadsheets. A digital-first experience also helps standardize processes across an organization, while greatly reducing errors associated with manual work. When your organization equips staff with a comprehensive telehealth solution to reduce administrative burdens, they can get back to providing quality virtual treatment.

An evolved telehealth strategy is a requirement for the future of addictions care, especially because there is a real, concerning demand for virtual addictions treatment. In fact, the International Committee of the Red Cross calls the mental health fallout from the pandemic a “crisis within a crisis.” More patients need care, and organizations have to rethink how they deliver that virtual treatment to meet demand and patient expectations. This means embracing complete solutions that offer more than a simple video call, to improve the patient experience to increase retention, encourage program compliance, and move the needle on treatment completion rates.

Contact an EHR Software Expert

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