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Building Culture, Acquiring Patients: Highlights from TCIV’s Tuesday Morning Sessions

December 11, 2019

A strong culture does more than create happy employees, it makes a tangible impact on a behavioral healthcare organization’s bottom fine, Lisa Richardson, MS, LCDCIII, told attendees in Tuesday’s opening session at the Treatment Center Investment & Valuation Retreat in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Richardson, an independent consultant who most recently was the CEO of a behavioral healthcare agency, said companies that proactively manage and invest in their culture demonstrate:

  • 516% more revenue growth over 10 years
  • 30% higher levels of innovation
  • 40% higher levels of retention
  • A reduction in the likelihood of employee attrition by 87%

“Evaluating engagement is important. There are a lot of polls, consultants and tools to look at engagement,” Richardson said. “But engagement is only one factor that will help you look at the health of your organization. Culture will help you look at a more faceted approach. Culture helps you look at behaviors and how people feel. People may feel they are engaged in their jobs, but that doesn’t mean the culture is a healthy one.”

Richardson cautioned executives to be wary of hiring high performers whose values don’t align with an organization’s culture—“they might get a lot of stuff done, but they don’t move your mission forward”—and said that conversely, for low performers who share an organization’s values, the issue might simply be finding a different role within the company that plays to the employee’s skills.

Richardson said that building a healthy culture goes beyond conducting written engagement assessments.

“(Assessing an organization’s culture) involves sitting down and talking with employees and listening to the voice of your employees,” she said. “An assessment doesn’t do that. It just answers questions, whereas listening to the voice of your employees and building relationships and trust and asking where are the problems, what do we need to work on is going to help you understand where the gaps are. The culture is the heartbeat of the organization. That’s something that is hard to put on paper.”

Richardson concluded her presentation by sharing an additional series of tips for building a healthy organizational culture:

  • Have a mission statement that reflects behaviors you desire to see in staff.
  • Clearly define desired behaviors, model them, and reinforce and appreciate them when demonstrated by employees.
  • Create goals for leadership behaviors that strengthen culture.
  • Work on connection, trust building and relationships with employees.
  • Seek continual employee feedback.

Patient acquisition strategies

Backed by telehealth as an increasingly viable method of care delivery, medication-assisted treatment providers can growth their business by acquiring more patients in a number of venues, said Jeffrey Allgaier, MD, FACEP, FASAM, the co-founder, president and chief medical officer of Ideal Option.

Currently, the Ryan Haight Act mostly prevents the prescription of controlled substances unless an in-person exam is performed first, however, legislation is in the works to ease this restriction, Allgaier said.

With this shift unfolding, there are four areas where MAT providers can build relationships to acquire more patients:

Jails. Over half of the opioid-addicted population will circulate through the correctional system within a 12-month period, Allgaier said, and there is frequent churn in the individuals who are incarcerated. From a legislative perspective, Allgaier said, there are a number of states that are pushing a requirement for MAT to be provided in the jails, specifically methadone and buprenorphine.

“If you work with these folks and do it in a compassionate way, this is a wonderful opportunity,” Allgaier said.

Emergency departments. Having waivered physicians available or on call to connect with emergency departments around the clock is a huge advantage that creates “happy hospitals,” Allgaier said. Plus, with emergency room physicians able to conduct initial exams, Ryan Haight Act requirements are satisfied and MAT prescribers can prescribe through telehealth platforms.

Pre-arrest diversion programs and syringe exchanges. Prioritizing finding clean needles for consumption at syringe exchanges shows potential patients are closer to a stage of change where they are ready to enter treatment, he said.

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