Got issues? Come to treatment, keep your appointments, do your homework and follow-up as it's assigned, and have faith you'll get better.

That's probably the job of the consumer, and sometimes the desire to do that job is undermined by long waits between the intake appointment and the first session or medical visit. A number of appointments are broken on a daily basis in facilities because of what amounts to frustration with poor service.

Mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities are doing more these days to reduce the frustration of long waits between appointments and other service-oriented issues, hoping that will assure consumers show up for their treatment they need. Recently The National Council (the mental health community's most popular support organization) published a study that compiled data from ten Community Behavioral Health Organizations (CBHOs) that sheds some light on the road to a consumer's successful treatment.

The first, solid business tenant cited as a key to success in improving the way people work in treatment facilities was executive involvement. The chief needs to know what the consumers and staff are really doing in order to apply their experience in fine-tuning processes. Fine tuning a business process, like reducing the time between intake and that first appointment, needs review by a number of different eyes in order for good ideas to come into play. Typically, the chief's eyes have seen a lot of different ways to improve processes, plus read a few recent articles and a book or two on the subject, and good direction can follow involvement.

Don't be surprised if you see the CEO of an organization going through an intake. Sometimes we need to see a business process from the eyes of a consumer in order to improve the business process. It's good for a consumer to talk with the executive director of a facility they've come to for help and maybe voice a couple reasons they feel treatment has been successful, or how the system in that facility is frustrating and counter-productive. Top executives are becoming more willing to include listening to these stories in their management process.

The same goes for professionals. In small organizations, everybody knows the boss, and usually an open-door policy is in play. Business process improvement ideas can come from the troops who actually do the work…larger organizations need to find a way to encourage this sort of information flow without supervisors' issues causing information bottlenecks and stopping the flow of good suggestions getting to the top.

This is one reason the computer system is so important. The data provided by the same system used to enter the intake and assessment information, treatment plans and progress notes is used to gather statistics. Reducing the time between intake and the first session is a key to reducing frustration and keeping people in treatment. Spending time in the solution is better than living in the problem.

In the study cited above, Involvement of the executive director decreased the time between intake and the first session or medical appointment by 13%...if it originally took two weeks to see a professional, that simple visibility of the boss encouraged the troops enough to cut that time by a couple days.

OK, so a couple days isn't a lot. If you improve a couple more processes, more days are shaved off the lag-time between intake and the first session….eventually that lag time between intake and treatment could be cut in half…or better.

I'll address more ideas facilities are putting into play to improve the consumer experience soon.