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Data: You Gotta Use It

Mental health and addictions professionals require tools. For a couple decades, Terry McLeod has been a trailblazer providing those tools in the form of Electronic ...Read More

Fact: data sits unused, and that’s a disservice to both consumers and business.

In a fast-paced, complex treatment environment, professionals seldom think of how data can help them treat a consumer…they’re busy treating the person for the primary problem they’re supposed to address. A customer of mine recently hit the six month mark of including new data into their Electronic Health Record (EHR). Over the course of that six months, we integrated processes that are based on results backed up by data. I truly believe that without the data, our success would not have been perceived as something that contributes not only to organizational survival, but scratched the surface for improving treatment.

The clinic is an outpatient medication-assisted substance abuse program, dealing with chronic addicts.

Since addiction to another substance has been the focus for many years, alcoholism has taken a second-row seat in the clinic, when for some folks enrolled in the program, it’s been an alternative to using the preferred substance. There’s a related alcohol outpatient treatment program next door that makes it convenient to increase business for the overall organization. New York State OASAS includes a service chargeable to Medicaid for simply walking a consumer through an assessment to determine whether she may actually have a drinking problem. By including the assessment as a part of the clinic’s focus, consumers have been referred next door for treatment.

A few instances of success, helping consumers come to grips with their alcohol problem while showing staff the assessment can be successful in raising revenue and improving treatment, has been backed up by data. The assessment is a service that’s paid by the consumer’s payor, and a few have at least taken action over the data gathering period. The next step is to increase the staff’s efforts. Counselors and nurses have always informally invited consumers to investigate their alcohol use if they suspect it looks excessive, however referrals have seldom resulted in enrollments at the outpatient program next door. Since we have increased attention to the alcohol problem, the plan is to get staff buy-in to administer the assessments in addition to the consumer’s regular treatment sessions. By bringing more focused attention to the problem on a regular basis, we expect more success. Since we have data to back up the staff’s minor successes so far, we expect more consumer referrals once all suspected alcohol abusers are administered the assessment three times a year as is permitted (and paid for) by Medicaid.

Tracking the assessments in the EHR will deliver further opportunity for followup with the alcohol treatment program after the consumer’s initial treatment is complete and there’s even more data to review and judge effectiveness. The scheduling module in the EHR is designed to assure the follow-up activities actually happen. To date, the scheduling module has not been valuable for many functions, so it’s been neglected. Because the treatment in the clinic next door will certainly not be on the professional’s mind, a timely reminder to discuss the treatment with the consumer and the professional next door will help the two clinics collaborate, grow and become more effective. Needless to say, the organization sees benefit from the revenue generated by both the original and follow-up activities. Incidentally, this encourages another program designed to coordinate consumer treatment by a multiple providers, Health Homes. Health Homes are designed to keep all professionals providing complex care of different types appraised of the total treatment picture for a consumer. The design is meant to decrease emergency room visits and hospital stays for consumers with complicated multiple problems. In the case of today’s topics, the interventions and treatment discussed are all wrapped up in the EHR, so the data could be automatically sent to professionals who need it most in order to avoid drug interactions and generally know what’s happening in the consumer’s life…oh, and for my example clinics, that means more “Complex-Care” services, which can also generate more revenue.

As we progress into this new age of EHR effectiveness, data is king.

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