Using Technology to Improve the Patient Journey in Addiction Treatment
Behavioral health integration means “never missing an opportunity to help a patient”
Behavioral health and addiction treatment care settings pose special challenges when seeking to improve the patient experience.
The journey for a behavioral health patient is already a complex one because it often hinges on overcoming societal stigma to pursue treatment in the first place, with varying methodologies for diagnosis and treatment to follow. But that patient experience can be made worse from both a process and communication standpoint because behavioral health is an industry that is still “largely driven by paper and trial-and-error guesswork.” For those who have moved from paper to digital, lack of behavioral health integration still poses unique and difficult challenges.
In addiction treatment, specifically, the admissions process is one of the most critical pieces, according to Kelsey Cianciulli, Director of Admissions at Ambrosia Treatment Center, because, “Missing one phone call can be the difference between a patient coming to your facility and going elsewhere, or not going to a facility at all.”
Ambrosia is a multi-location addiction treatment provider, offering medical detox, residential treatment facilities, outpatient services, as well as family and alumni support. With Pennsylvania, California and Florida locations, Ambrosia prides itself on world-class service at every stage, which begins with their free 24/7 helpline to potential patients before they even step into a building.
“Through our helpline, our first contact with potential patients involves education on recovery and our facilities, and learning more about their unique needs,” said Cianciulli. “It’s very important that we go at the pace they are comfortable with, to learn more details.”
In addition, Cianciulli adheres to an idea shared by many in healthcare — that a successful discharge plan is planned during, or prior to, admissions. Care teams’ work, in general, is made easier when they know who they are treating before a patient walks in the door.
But for people suffering from addiction, they are likely being admitted with increased levels of fear and anxiety and need to receive positive reinforcement from staff that they have made the right decision to pursue treatment. Admission into a treatment facility represents so much more in their patient journey — often that they are embarking on a new path for their life, that they may have to change their social circle, or where they live or work.
“It’s important to create a feeling of comfort when they walk in the door,” said Cianciulli. “Not only, ‘We are expecting you and know your name,’ but also, ‘We understand where you are coming from and how difficult this is going to be for you.’”
To deliver on this level of customer service, the Ambrosia admissions team and clinical staff need to be informed with patient data that was learned during their helpline experience.
This previously involved Ambrosia’s staff having to perform manual data entry into two different software platforms — Ambrosia’s electronic health record (EHR) platform, Kipu, and their customer relationship management (CRM) platform, Salesforce. This inefficient process necessitated they establish one, central location for all of their patient data, by engaging Bridge Connector to provide bidirectional integration between these platforms.
Freeing up admissions teams to provide the best care
Where the breakdowns in patient experience often occur, especially in behavioral health, is that care staff’s time is unnecessarily pulled due to the aforementioned “manual” or subjective nature of the industry, performing manual data entry from paper forms. This is exacerbated by dual, manual data entry between when those IT platforms in use are not connected.
“With Bridge Connector integrations in place, our admissions team has the time necessary to respond to any incoming phone calls and messages, never missing an opportunity to help a patient,” said Cianciulli.
This seamless exchange of information between platforms, made possible by integrations, also provides better quality of care.
Cianciulli explains why: “When it comes to residential treatment, we really try to take it case-by-case because of the information that we’ve collected during intake and detox. We have a holistic view of the patient and their needs. Using this data, we’re able to create an individualized program for each and every patient that best suits their needs and sets them up for success.”
The data collection is not strictly limited to information about the patient themselves, however, nor does it stop at intake or detox. Patients’ friends and family members often play in to their journey, and thus, that information is also logged by a therapist, nurse, clinician, or other appropriate individual. And Ambrosia care providers are also collecting patient data throughout the recovery process, entering it all into the EHR. The benefit of integrating systems is that it enables any employee dealing with a patient — at whatever point in their care — to access the most recent and updated information.
Alumni realities? Meet outreach automation
Once the patient journey is complete and discharge occurs “into the real world,” the harsh reality, and industry standard, is that 40% to 60% of patients relapse. This is why Ambrosia sees their role as that of “lifetime partner” to their alumni.
“If we do have to step back in to support our patients in a more active role, having access to all of the patient data in one place is critical to getting them back on the path to recovery,” said Cianciulli. “Otherwise, you’re treating them like a brand new patient and starting from zero, which is a disadvantage to both the organization and your patients.”
Ambrosia not only utilizes data integration to get all of this patient data “on the same page,” but they are able to automate certain functions of alumni outreach as well.
“You want to be sure that if somebody is struggling with recovery, they feel comfortable reaching out to someone at your facility to help them through it. If they relapse and don’t want to seek help, you want to be sure that their loved ones also have access to these same resources at your facility, so they are supported in their attempts to help their loved one,” she said.
“People are busy. Staff are dealing with so many variables throughout the day, that it’s really easy to forget to reach out to patients who aren’t sitting right in front of them,” said Cianciulli. “The behind-the-scenes piece of this much-needed, ongoing communication is that we’re able to automate alumni outreach programs in Salesforce.”
“The most important thing that automation ensures, is that no patient falls through the cracks. Although relapses can be frustrating, we are committed to truly making a difference to give our patients — and their families — an opportunity for a better life.”