The statistics are terrifying. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Alcohol poisoning kills six people every day. Of those, 76 percent are adults ages 35 to 64, and three of every four people killed by alcohol poisoning are men. The group with the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people is American Indians/Alaska Natives (49.1 per one million). More than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder in the United States, but less than eight percent of those receive treatment.
Almost 72,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses, a record high acknowledging an increase of about 10 percent, according to new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control. The death toll is higher than the peak yearly death totals from H.I.V., car crashes and even U..S. gun deaths.
Treating addiction is not a simple process and the current treatment of 90-day detox programs works well if you have thousands of beds, staff and other resources. Meanwhile the actual behavioral health treatment of addition is not much better. It is still a time-consuming process requiring individual diagnosis, but largely driven by paper and trial and error guesswork.
Meanwhile heroin, fentanyl and other synthetic drugs addictions were surpassing alcoholism. In Gallup, New Mexico, last year 104 people died from drug and alcohol abuse in McKinley County while the state suffered 1,952 deaths, the 13th highest in the US.
One of the nation’s epicenters of addiction is Gallup, New Mexico, where 22,000 addicts await a behavioral healthcare fix. While there are many tech solutions in healthcare, behavioral health does not receive the same level of attention as physical health, despite mental, behavioral and physical health being inextricably linked, as the World Health Organization noted in a 2014 report.
One of the widest chasms between the two began in U.S. healthcare in 2010 with the transition from paper to electronic patient medical records. However, these electronic health record (EHR) systems have been focused on the physical side of medical recording, leaving the behavioral side with little support.
While care collaboration through interoperability remains one of the major challenges in the healthcare industry, collaboration between physical and behavioral health has is also behind the curve. Behavioral health services (BHS) operate and are updated based on paper records, leaving challenges around efficiency, communication and the ability to scale treatment operations.
Historically, clinicians have directly performed assessments of people for the purposes of diagnosis, monitoring the progression of an illness, or evaluating responses to treatment. For example, a person’s mental state can be evaluated by examining movement patterns, mood states, social interactions (e.g., number of texts and phone calls made, content of interactions), behaviors or activities at different times of day, vocal tone, speed, word choices, facial expressions, biometric and heath measures.
While assessing an individual’s symptomatology, large quantities of behavioral data can provide vital information for researchers to increase their understanding of mental illnesses and mental wellbeing, help develop better interventions and better health outcomes, and potentially predict who may be at risk of developing behavioral health problems.
Providers addicted to records and files
A physical health issue can require visits to a primary care physician, specialists, and possibly x-ray technicians along with the records and paper trails that go along with it, the treatment of behavioral health is often much more complex. If a patient requiring behavioral care shows up at an urgent care facility and receives treatment, that data doesn’t get back to the patient’s primary care provider. The primary care provider only learns of the visit if the patient decides to give them that data. The PCP can’t pull information from possible business partners in the area to know when there’s been a change.
A substance abuse patient needs a physical and mental examination before they can check into the behavioral health center. An intake coordinator starts that process, then the patient sees a nurse, and then a counselor. But the person also has depression and needs to see a psychiatrist and they also need to go to the detox center at the hospital. Chances are they also have social problems to worry about such as child support, perhaps a bankruptcy case, or they’re headed to jail.
In addition, different behavioral treatment centers may have operational differences such as the number of treatment phases and the ability to track, monitor and anticipate recidivism after patients graduate from treatment centers. There are also differing manual processes and types of tracking documentation used by facilities while training programs may or may not be part of treatment centers as well.
In a typical BHS treatment center, their process and workflow comprise admission and treatment which includes assigning a treatment counselor, nurse for withdrawal, case manager and training program coordinator. There is also a program for job training, an aftercare phase along with monitoring, tracking, reporting and progress improvement or non-progress on treatment programs against the outcome of the overall program.
However, this phase is cumbersome because of the lack of an electronic recording system for behavioral health as most records are stored as PDFs in EHR systems. In addition to these limitations, there is lack of support to track progress or non-progress on patient outcomes.
Unlike the ‘physical’ medical approach, behavioral care treatments tend to be more subjective to each care provider and require a longer time to monitor and record positive outcomes from treatment. Behavioral treatment depends more on data analytics from patients to determine the best approach for patient engagements. There are also additional data categories required for BHS such as chemical dependency assessment, a treatment plan, social service related data, a training program and related data and mental health assessments.
When considering all this additional data versus data requirements for physical care, it seems like a process that is almost designed to be slow and cumbersome. So if the parameters of treatment can’t be changed to accommodate the surge in addicts, the only other consideration is the treatment process.
One ageless trend emerging for 2018 is the quest of hospitals, larger carriers and clinics to identify new revenue streams; not just managing revenue cycles, but creating them. The healthcare industry is now looking at revenue which can be generated through the interoperability of annual wellness visits (AWV), chronic care and service care transitions between physical and behavioral health services. Hospital systems and other healthcare facilities that can connect these services with technologies such as bi-directional information flow will benefit by offering these services and creating a new profit centers of revenue through reimbursements by CMS and private insurers.
These types of market drivers are noted in The Global Healthcare Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Software Market report for 2017-2021, issued a few months ago. The report predicts that the global healthcare revenue cycle management (RCM) software market will grow at a CAGR of 4.50 percent during the period through 2021.
Healthcare service providers deploy automated systems to address RCM processes and to fill the payment gap that arises from the processes of medical billing and collections. However, the report points out IT applications such as hospital information system and EHR have outdated technology platforms that lack advanced functionalities needed to address RCM issues, causing hospitals and health systems to prefer to outsource these services due to the lack of interoperability between revenue cycle processes and workflows. This type of outsourcing drains hospital revenue.
Meanwhile, global business researcher Radiant Insights issued a study in November reporting that the healthcare information technology market will have growth through 2022 of close to $50 billion. Factors such as increasing focus on improving quality of care and clinical outcomes, rising need to reduce healthcare costs and minimize errors in medical facilities, along with government support for healthcare IT solutions will drive the market. Increasing adoption of technologically advanced software solutions including EHR and EHR connectivity systems, e-prescribing and clinical trial management software and clinical decision support systems is helping to improve healthcare productivity.
The study also cited the growth of cloud computing in the healthcare industry is improving real-time communication and data exchange. Interoperable systems and cloud computing are integrating healthcare systems at a rapid pace and are identifying infectious diseases and tracking the incidence as well as occurrence rates of chronic diseases.
Radiant Insights points to up-and-coming organizations such as Zoeticx, Inc., a provider of medical software, that has introduced a cloud app called ProVizion Wellness. This software can be beneficial for streamlining data integration for annual wellness visits by offering interoperability through bi-directional data flow. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are benefiting by providing this service through private and government insurers. This system provides management capabilities for supporting tracking ability on population progress for AWVs. The report also mentioned prominent players operating in the healthcare information technology (IT) market include 3M Health Information Systems, Lexmark Healthcare, Conifer Health Solutions, and CSI Healthcare.
The Chemistry of Linking Unrelated Hospital IT Landscapes to Revenue
As the hospital revenue trend for 2018 looks promising, we are still facing the same old interoperability issues despite the advances in technology pointed out in the previously mentioned research. What can hospitals and clinics do to be a revenue leader? As we move into 2018, it might be a good time to examine what is necessary to solve a complex problem like the ability of hospitals to link interoperability and the benefits that arise from adopting tools, technologies and concepts from unrelated landscapes.
When we look at the value generated in healthcare, we remain enamored with acute care administration to address patients’ concerns with a new illness or exacerbation of a chronic condition. One of the stated goals of widespread EHR adoption was to assist in this aspect of care. EHRs are being used to capture patient data, as well as to label and extract detailed metrics in an attempt to quantify the amount and quality of the care delivered, irrespective of the geographic and temporal boundaries of where the data was captured. The design of EHR’s is to allow for capture and subsequent analysis and billing for the care delivered.
However, the value of health IT lies in the robustness of applications. This might seem obvious since most of the technology we have direct experience with relies on the applications which drive value such as cloud based assets. For hospitals, investing in an application seems more prudent then investing in a protocol. However, by looking at the problems faced in healthcare, changing the perspective of the problem from an application-centric one to that of a protocol-centric view brings new revenue possibilities.
The Center of Medicaid and Medicare Service (CMS) continues to increase emphasis on care collaboration, ranging from Chronic Care Management (CCM) to the recent announcement from the US Surgeon General’s landmark report on alcohol, drug and health. Derived from many aspects in healthcare, the authors’ examine the challenges of integrating physical and behavioral healthcare, addressing the Care Collaboration Model outlined by CMS and the Surgeon General.
The author’s, beginning with the interdependency between physical and behavioral health, bring case scenarios supporting the challenges of today’s healthcare, and then introduce an innovative Health Collaborative Ecosystem addressing the many challenges of a care collaboration model.
Interdependency Between Mental and Other Chronic Disorders
Research has demonstrated bidirectional links between mental disorders and chronic conditions. Depression and anxiety are heightening the risks towards hypertension and diabetes. Depression roughly doubles the risk for a new coronary heart disease (CHD) event. We can go further on other mental disorders such as PTSD, drug addiction and alcoholism. Such interdependencies have limited solutions today due to the lack of a collaborative environment. We refer to this as a ‘revolving door care environment’, a vicious cycle compounding the effects of chronic and mental disorders.
A detox center can only retain the patient for detoxification for a limited time. Without collaborating with other behavioral services, the patient will inevitably return to the same habit – either drug addiction or alcoholism. Depression can stem from a social environment or from a recently developed chronic condition such as CHD.
The primary care provider will continue to address the chronic condition without the knowledge of what may actually feed into the patient’s chronic condition. It is yet another ‘revolving door’ for the physical care environment. Such interdependency requires a care collaborative environment between care providers.
Care Collaborative Model and Bidirectional Information Flow
A team-based care collaborative model uses a multidiscipline group of care providers supporting and implementing treatment with the patient at the center. A bidirectional information flow is an absolute must to put the model into realization and operation in healthcare institutes.
Today, healthcare lacks the support of a closed-loop system, one that emphasizes a bi-directional flow of information. Healthcare is muddled with reactive care, instead of preventive, anticipated care. It is that lack of prevention and anticipation that have an adverse impact on the overall healthcare cost and patient outcomes. EHR and EMR systems are the main ‘anchors’ of today’s health IT.
However, there are two EHR components that are non-starters: the boundary of the health institute and unidirectional systems. HIEs (Health Information Exchange) address EHR limitations with their capability to provide support across health institutes, but actually worsen the unidirectional character of the EHR. Neither EHR or HIE can address the requirements for a care collaborative model.
Reaching The State of Homeostasis As A Desired Patient Outcome
The objective is to improve patient outcomes, but how do you define a patient’s outcome?
Homeostasis is a biological term, referring to the stability, balance, or equilibrium within the body. Homeostasis is the process of maintaining a constant internal environment by providing the body with what is needed to survive for the well being of the whole. While disorders (physical or mental) reflect the abnormal condition of the body, homeostasis is the normal, stable and well-being state.
Each disorder is well documented with what would be a normal condition or the state of homeostasis. This state of homeostasis also deviates based on race, demographics, and above all, the relationship with other existing disorders afflicting the patient. It is then noted that each patient outcome requires a personalized state of homeostasis.
From the disorder, the process towards the state of homeostasis consists of genetics, nutrition, physical activity, mental health and an external environment. Genetics is the internal influencer in with medicine’s physical care plays a role in adjusting the disorder toward homeostasis. For healthcare, it is the care plan for a disorder.
The state of homeostasis should be used as the measure of a patient’s outcome, resulting from the care collaborative model addressing the integrated, coordinated care from multiple care providers.
Health Collaborative Ecosystem
The Health Collaborative Ecosystem is the delivery process that supports the care collaborative model, with the objective of bringing the patient to the state of homeostasis. This system would include all providers of health-related services to the chronically ill patient diagnosed with one or more of the designated chronic and debilitating diagnosis that utilize the most significant percentage of health care spending. Such a system would be:
Capable of integrating physical and mental care environments.
An integrated layer complementing (including EHR-agnostic) existing health IT infrastructures, supporting care activities beyond the brick and mortal walls of their facility or clinic.
Consensus among providers to standards of care and bidirectional information flow that encourages innovation, compliance with regulations, secures privacy and adopts a continuous process of improvements to better reach a patient’s state of homeostasis.
Why an Ecosystem?
An Ecosystem is a collective system, including a health IT solution and consulting guidance, and support, for hospital operations in order to maximize the benefits of care collaboration, through efficiency and scalability of a care providers’ bandwidth.
It is an Ecosystem because it must include an auditable compliance component to provide crucial measurements and enforce quality guidelines for the model according to hospital and clinic management.
It is an Ecosystem because it must include the ability to track and monitor progress towards the state of homeostasis for all attributes contributing the patient’s overall well being.
As noted in one case study, Maria Viera, age 75, takes a dozen medications to treat her diabetes, high blood pressure, mild congestive heart failure, and arthritis. After she begins to have trouble remembering to take her pills, she and her husband visit her primary care physician to discuss this and a list of other worrisome developments, including hip and knee pain, dizziness, low blood sugar, and a recent fall. Maria’s primary care doctor spends as much time with her as he dares, knowing that every extra minute will put him further behind schedule. Yet despite his efforts, there is not enough time to address her myriad ailments. She sees several specialists, but no one talks to all her providers about her care, which means she may now be dealing with conflicting recommendations for treatment, or medications that could interact harmfully. As a result, Maria is at high risk for avoidable complications and potentially preventable emergency department visits and hospital stays.
The care team for the above patient would potentially consists of: a primary care provider (high blood pressure and care coordinator), a cardiologist (congestion heart failure), an endocrinologist (diabetes), dietician (diabetes), a rheumatologist (arthritis), physical and/or occupational therapists (arthritis, falls, hip and knee pain), and a psychologist or a psychiatrist (depression).
The above case brings challenges to the health care system on multiple fronts:
More time from primary care providers with limited result outcomes due to the lack of collaboration with other care providers, specialists and community services.
Potential conflicting recommendations for treatment due to the lack of coordination and bidirectional medical information flows from multiple care providers and specialists.
The patient’s risk for complications, emergency visits and hospital stays significantly increases.
As conditions worsen, the patient develops symptoms for behavioral health conditions.
Today’s solution for the above scenario is based on care management. The care manager would work with all care providers, manually “pulling and pushing” the patient’s medical conditions and updates to all involved care providers. Error prone, high cost, and low efficiency are some of today’s deficiencies for healthcare attempts in implementing the care collaborative model, outlined by CMS.
Net New Revenue Focusing on Preventive Care
This is the challenge of a ‘revolving door care environment’ in addressing the need for integration between physical and behavioral health services. The Health Collaborative Ecosystem is the answer for such a challenge.
However, to support such a revolution, healthcare, as an industry, needs to have the financial incentives. As stated in the introduction of this paper, CMS is not encouraging a transformation through financial incentives.
The authors’ propose a roadmap to roll out the Health Collaborative Ecosystem without upfront risks and budget planning, but to generate new revenue for the institutes. The implementation roadmap leverages these CMS initiatives:
Annual wellness visits
Chronic care management
Integration of physical and behavioral health through the care collaboration model
With the Health Collaborative Ecosystem’s objective is to create a patient state of homeostasis, rural and community hospitals and clinics can accomplish multiple goals – better services to the community, better defined patient outcomes and open new avenues for health services with behavioral health and filling the revenue gap.