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Why we must shift from qualitative to data-driven treatment

November 22, 2016

With the increased focus on value-based care across the healthcare industry, there is a growing need for services that deliver positive outcomes at lower costs. Nowhere is this more critical than in the mental health arena.

A few shifts are occurring right now in the mental health arena that are driving the evolution of more effective, integrated population health models. Targeted marketing and education efforts have increased awareness and destigmatized mental health in key communities and demographics. This has generated open discussions about important issues and has led to improved treatment.

New regulations and policies also demonstrate the need for greater access to and benefits for mental health. Some of the more impactful regulatory efforts include: The Affordable Care Act, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

In addition, there has been an uptick in the use of data to create accountability and demonstrate the efficacy of long-term, mental healthcare treatment programs. Leading mental health providers have started utilizing quantitative analysis - such as longitudinal studies – that provide measureable proof of progress and outcomes to support long-term therapies.

Precision in data, quality and collaboration

To cut through the barriers standing in the way of delivering optimum care, the mental health industry must recognize and embrace the importance of data. This goes beyond merely benchmarking at the onset and conclusion of care. It requires the nimble and ongoing collection of data throughout the treatment process to guide planning and decision making and allow for adjustments to be made to optimize outcomes.

I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand the benefits of capturing, analyzing and leveraging data in our mental health programs and am a proponent of implementing more precision-based, data-driven treatment approaches across the industry using the following four key pillars as a foundation:

  1. Data Collection and Evaluation – Gone are the days of using standard multiple choice questionnaires. Precision treatment requires the gathering and analyzing of literally thousands of data points daily through internationally validated assessments and in-depth conversations with clients, their families and treatment teams. This constant assessment and thorough evaluation is critical to extracting insights into what factors and events are impacting or impeding progress. By taking into account the individual differences in people’s environments, families and lifestyles, and having the ability to monitor peaks, valleys and trends in real-time, care teams can make better informed diagnoses and decisions.
  2. Quality Assurance – To ensure consistent quality and safety, a comprehensive review must be implemented throughout the course of care to establish and maintain a baseline of accountability and transparency.
  3. Collaboration – The best results and outcomes are generated when care teams work together across functions, programs and facilities to share best practices and fuel innovation.
  4. Long-term Outcomes – Data collection following the conclusion of treatment is imperative to ensuring positive outcomes and lasting change.

This data-driven approach builds upon the Precision Medicine Initiative introduced by President Obama in 2015 and represents a groundbreaking model for the mental health industry that makes programs and services accountable, personalized and, ultimately, more effective. Additionally, it facilitates better integration with other healthcare professionals and insurance providers by validating the effects of services with concrete metrics.

Looking ahead

In an industry historically reliant on broad treatment options and anecdotal outcomes, data is the key to the future of mental healthcare and already is opening new doors for our industry. By cultivating a more precise and holistic approach to mental health treatment, we have the ability to improve efficacy and the patient experience, strengthen long-term outcomes, drive down the cost of care, and deliver a higher standard of healing.

Jennifer Steiner is CEO at InnerChange, a family of residential and outpatient mental health treatment programs for adolescents, young adults and their families. She has a history of excellence in healthcare delivery and has served in executive roles for leading providers across the country. She holds a MBA from the University of Michigan – Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Colorado College.

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