With vaccination efforts in full force, many behavioral health leaders are making plans for treatment programs coming back from the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent national poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that more than “one-third of Americans (36%) say coronavirus is having a serious impact on their mental health and most (59%) feel coronavirus is having a serious impact on their day-to-day lives.” With many people suffering from mental health impacts and addiction during the pandemic (and sometimes because of it), behavioral health providers are more important than ever.
COVID-19 has reshaped the way many treatment facilities function. The pandemic gave rise to many treatment challenges. Roadmaps for the future should account for all of them if your program is to emerge successful. In the face of these challenges and changing risks, many behavioral health leaders are concerned about how their organizations have been affected and what they have to do next.
1. Planning to Bounce Back
What is the most appropriate way for your behavioral health program to move forward? Even as more and more people are vaccinated, most programs are still going to be modifying schedules to avoid high density at their facilities. Compliance with local regulations and a step-wise approach will allow your program to identify concerns and address them quickly.
Plans should address what you must do to get through the next few months of transition as well as how you plan to continue treatment as things begin to normalize. Determine what actions your team can take immediately, and prioritize in advance the hierarchy of actions for the future. Your organization’s purpose is particularly important in these decisions. Ensure that all actions planned serve and advance your purpose.
Some changes made to address the pandemic may continue to serve your patients in the future. For example, continuing to offer telehealth or monitoring technology can improve your care and give your program flexibility in caring for patients. Most providers invested in telehealth tools to care for patients during the pandemic and will want to fully utilize those tools to maximize those investments. Consider the longer term implications of flexibility in treatment and how those could position your program for success in the future.
2. Defining and Measuring Success
Be as specific as possible in describing what it will take for you to get back to normal and the milestones that will need to be reached. Set deadlines for reaching each milestone and be mindful of the need for flexibility as timing and situations evolve.
Technology can help you measuring progress on milestones in real-time as your treatment moves forward. Monitoring technology can also help you make better decisions. Having patient monitoring technology like Vivi360 helps you measure program success and what has been done and what the results are.
These measurements will help to define what “success” in the new normal after the pandemic ends. Measurement reporting and communication also helps you demonstrate the efficacy of your unique approach, helping to differentiate your treatment.
3. Prioritize Staff
Care teams have been through a lot as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Their safety and well-being should continue to be a top priority as your organization comes back from the pandemic. Emotional intelligence is critical when leading your team through this process.
Behavioral health programs provide care and wellness to patients, and those who directly provide that care also need to be cared for. Employee wellness should be a core part of your resourcing, planning, and measurement as you rebuild programs. The uncertainty of the pandemic has had an impact on your staff. Prioritizing their health, safety, and economic well-being will enable them to continue to provide the best care to patients.
4. Maximize Alternate Treatment Channels
Alternative treatment channels like video for group meetings and clinician appointments, and virtual consultations and video tours of your facilities can increase access to your treatment even after the pandemic. “Digital first” patients expect to be able to tour facilities and learn about treatment online via your website, YouTube channel, and social media posts. Many patients will likely appreciate the option to utilize telehealth tools for appointments and group meetings even after things normalize.
5. Monitoring Technology
Behavioral health providers are developing digital road maps for the short, medium, and long term. Digital capabilities need to be implemented across your entire organization to provide better support for patients and staff. The pandemic accelerated digital intake and “no touch” experiences.
New HIPAA compliant technologies like remote patient monitoring provide treatment programs with new ways to personalize care and provide flexibility to patients. Personalized data helps providers evaluate the success of treatment programs and allows patient care to be administered both on location and remotely.
Remote patient monitoring programs give providers a new opportunity to measure treatment and care plans. It also gives providers the ability to have data from the home setting for outpatient treatment. Insight technology like Vivi360 helps providers sort and stratify the data into actionable information that they can use when recommending treatment decisions.
6. Use Video in Communications
Communication is vital important. Programs are putting in a lot of work to adjust to better care for patients and it is important to communicating the changes you have made and the importance of these changes to the care of your patients. These changes should be featured on your website, in outreach materials, in social media, and most importantly, in video platforms, like YouTube.
You may be thinking: YouTube? Really? Remember that that “the medium is the message” and that much of good communication is nonverbal. Emails and social media posts can’t contain miss the voice intonation, eye contact, and body language essential to important communications. While many treatment programs already use video to communicate success stories, regular video communication featuring leading executives and care staff speaking directly to prospective patients can be very effective and allows you to communicate your values.
This does not always have to take the form of highly produced content. It can also be used for regular communications and even changing plans. Using more of this kind of informal, regular video communication allows for nonverbal cues to communicate trust and create a more authentic digital presence.
Maintaining communication lets prospective patients know what you are doing to keep them safe and it gives you the opportunity to directly communicate the value of your treatment facility.
When using technology like Vivi360, treatment providers have the opportunity to promote the cutting-edge wearables and apps they offer to their patients. ViviHealth has communication materials available to programs that use the Vivi360 solution.
7. Think Long Term
Periods of volatility create opportunities that organizations can leverage. Behavioral health leaders that take a more innovative and long-term approach will be able to define the “new normal.”
Behavioral health programs most likely to succeed are not those that simply cut costs. More important is selectively cutting some unnecessary costs while continuing to make smart long-term investments.
Leading companies Google and Amazon invested during the pandemic because they recognized the scale of the opportunity. Behavioral health programs that succeed will be those that balance short- and long-term planning by investing in the future, investing in technology that serves them during the pandemic and long afterwards. Better measurement and monitoring are an important part of the future of behavioral health treatment, and now is the time to update programs with leading technology.
COVID-19 has accelerated changes that were inevitable. The move to telehealth and personalized care happened faster than they would have otherwise.
Changes like the virtualization of work, remote collaboration, and reduced travel were already evolving. The pandemic made these changes happen fast and brought them into the mainstream. As a result of the pandemic, people have learned to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate on virtual platforms, and are seeing increased efficacy and efficiency. Changes like these are will also affect the behavioral health landscape.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having immediate and long-term impacts on behavioral health providers across the country. The pandemic and related mental health effects are going to continue and demand for behavioral health services will continue to increase.
Coming back from COVID-19 requires behavioral health and treatment programs to meet these coming demands with forward-thinking planning and technology that can personalize care for their patients. Simply maintaining existing services will not be enough. Improving services to better measure patient condition and monitor the effects of treatment are going to be increasingly important.
By combining remote patient monitoring, measurement-based care, and the flexibility of virtual care tools, behavioral health providers can offer ongoing care that meets evolving patient needs and expectations.
As behavioral health providers assess the results of last year, they have the ability to focus their planning and make smart investments on behalf of their patients, clinicians, and care teams. With the right approach and the right technology, they will be positioned to help address the coming mental health and addiction problems in the most effective way possible.
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…transform recovery treatment through insights and technology to support sustainable and lasting recovery that saves and improves lives.
The Vivi 360 Recovery System is a comprehensive insight platform that combines real-time health monitoring devices, clinical insight dashboards, and personalized client care applications to make recovery treatment centers more effective.
Vivi360 delivers empirical clinical outcomes built on years of evidence-based scientific research from top universities and board-certified addictionologists.