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NCAD: Executives drive home value of data and ethics

August 22, 2018

The use of data to support providers’ bottom lines and drive outcomes, the reputation of the addiction treatment industry at large, and a push for patient-centered integrated care were among the topics on the executive agenda at the National Conference on Alcohol & Addiction Disorders on Tuesday in Anaheim.

Here are the highlights:

Diving into data-driven culture

Becoming a data-driven organization can reveal inefficiencies in marketing, dispel organizational beliefs and shock staff and management alike, Daniel Gemp, CEO of Dreamscape Marketing, told attendees. But responsibly managed and intelligently analyzed data can also bring tremendous positive impact, he added. Gemp shared some action items for providers looking to make the leap.

“First, have meetings and decide what goals and information you’re trying to address,” Gemp said. “What do you want this data to help you decide on? Choose exactly what pieces of data would fuel that decision, then find out what tools you need to get that data. It might be from the CRM or EMR, but it’s starting with the goal, finding exactly the data points you need and then identifying the tool you need to get it that’s going to allow you to organize the information to make better informed decisions.”

Gemp also had several other pieces of advice for behavioral healthcare executives diving into data:

  • Identify employees with hands-on experience running data initiatives. Data science requires business analysis, business strategy, communications and a general sense of inquisitiveness. It can take multiple individuals, or even a board of advisors, to find the right individuals to wear all of those hats.
  • Discard irrelevant data that does not reflect key performance indicators and organizational objectives.
  • Be patient with the implementation of data systems.

“It’s a process,” Gemp said. “It’s probably 30 to 90 days to start tracking anything. Going slow but steady is better than deploying tons of new technology and scaring everybody.”

Fighting the message battle

Rebecca Flood, president and CEO of Ashley Addiction Treatment, said she was at the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers annual conference when the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment that roiled the addiction treatment industry aired. But whereas many good operators were mortified to see how their field was portrayed, Flood told NCAD attendees she saw a silver lining.

“To be on national TV and under fire in a humorous way about a serious topic means we’ve arrived,” Flood said, adding that having concerns about the industry’s bad operators to the public domain ultimately helps consumers make better decisions about where to go for treatment.

Acknowledging Oliver’s piece was satire, Deni Carise, PhD, chief scientific officer for Recovery Centers of America, still lamented that it painted the industry with too broad of a brush. Scott Kiloby, founder and lead facilitator for the Kiloby Center for Recovery, meanwhile said industrywide image issues are a result of a lack of cohesion among providers. Kiloby cited infighting, fear, insecurity, backtalking and defamation between providers for causing image woes.

Kiloby advocated for more industrywide solidarity in messaging, calling on providers to face the issue head-on, coming together to speak with integrity as an industry defined by ethical practices, and not the deeds of a small number of bad actors.

Tony Saavedra, legal affairs writer for the Orange County Register, however, offered a word of caution about “getting behind a blue line [with] no information coming out.” Saavedra worked on the Register’s noted Rehab Riviera project, which, he said, began because operators were willing to come forward to raise awareness of problems within the industry that make the field at large look bad and largely were not being effectively addressed.

“We’re not trying to paint everyone with same brush,” Saavedra said. “We’re trying to write about bad apples.”

Saavedra said there is room for coverage of success stories as well, and he encouraged attendees to continue pushing those out, especially if they can be presented with a forward-looking view.

Patient-centered integrated care

A variety of challenges are preventing more widespread adoption of integrated care between primary care and behavioral health providers, said Suki Norris, senior knowledge engineer for the Echo Group. Insufficient staffing, disagreement over provider roles, restrictions on sharing patient information, state and federal policies that hinder reimbursement, and workflow and logistical obstacles are all barriers, she said.

Norris advocated for an integrated care model centered on the patient in which the patient manages his/her own care with the support of a behavioral health case manager. Norris acknowledged it would be a significant shift from the current healthcare landscape and that not all patients are able to manage their own care, but said a path forward can be developed by looking to the behavioral health provider to build the team to address the patient’s needs, giving patients a voice, committing to monitoring patient and family outcomes in both the short and long term, and identifying funding streams to ensure reimbursement for all team members.

"Successful outcomes"?

How do providers define success? Do “successful outcomes” exist in addiction treatment? Those questions largely defined the presentation from Siobhan Morse, division director of clinical services for Foundations Recovery Network.

Understanding that success means different things to different stakeholders in treatment, Morse shared with attendees a series of action items for improving their value proposition without sacrificing the quality of their services.

  • Be ethical and transparent in conversations with stakeholders. “Let’s be honest about what we know and what we don’t know,” Morse said.
  • Use the data you already have. “It’s meaningless until you begin asking it questions that can help you create predictive models,” she said.
  • Identify the outcomes that matter to your stakeholders. “What outcomes matter to the people you serve at all the different levels, from payers to families to communities?” Morse said. “How can you collect those outcomes that are meaningful to everybody and begin the process of eventually getting to where you’ve got large enough samples?”
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