Rehabilitation Providers & the Evolving Healthcare System: What’s Changed?
In the United States, our healthcare system faces a broad range of challenges, from inefficient treatment and skyrocketing costs to serious discrepancies in healthcare access, quality, and results across different organizations and communities.
Providers recognize this as a pressing issue, and, as a result, the healthcare industry is in a constant state of evolution. Regardless of their area of practice, it has become increasingly vital for these providers to explore new ways to provide an improved patient experience, achieve better health outcomes, control costs, spend money effectively, and drive innovation across the entire industry.
As the broader world of healthcare finds more effective ways to reach these objectives, rehabilitation providers need to adapt, as well. Currently, this transformation emphasizes taking a patient-first approach to treatment, transitioning to a new business model, making organizational changes, treating co-occurring disorders, and offering preventative care.
Taking a Patient-First Approach
Evidence shows that patient-focused approaches significantly improve the health of patients. At its core, patient-focused care hinges on healthcare professionals learning to communicate better with their patients. Using this model, practitioners are encouraged to collaborate and treat their
patients as a team to provide comprehensive, compassionate, and responsive care. This ensures patients receive access to critical information about their health and understand the treatment options and medications that are available to them.
This approach to healthcare is extremely valuable in rehabilitation programs and treatments. Individuals who enter rehab undergo treatment that can weigh upon them, both physically and mentally. If providers fail to demonstrate compassion and communicate openly with their patients, this can severely stunt the progress of treatment.
The patient should be comfortable reaching out to professionals with questions or concerns and offering input about their own progress. In response, providers should use this input to gain a deeper understanding of what the patient needs to recover and adjust treatment plans accordingly.
Alternatively, when healthcare providers fail to provide patient-focused care, patient hospitalizations, diagnostic testing, referrals, and prescriptions increase. This often slows the pace of treatment, which could be avoided simply by maintaining better communication between patients and providers. Patient-focused care also lowers healthcare costs, making treatment more affordable for patients and helping healthcare providers use their budgets more effectively so they can treat more patients.
Patients in rehab programs especially benefit from this improved level of trust with treatment providers. Patient-focused care makes it easier for patients and providers to establish a trusting relationship with an open line of communication, so patients are more likely to ask questions or voice concerns that can impact the outcome of their treatment. In contrast, if a rehabilitation patient experiences negative care, they will be far less motivated to continue making healthy lifestyle choices after they complete the program.
Adapting to the Business-to-Ecosystem (B2E) Model
Historically, the healthcare industry has primarily followed a traditional B2C (business to customer) model. One of the most far-reaching developments in healthcare involves the introduction of B2E, or business-to-ecosystem. While not every provider can name this philosophy, the premise itself has had a noteworthy impact on modern healthcare.
Each facet of the healthcare industry, including rehabilitation, can help define and shape the rest of the healthcare ecosystem. The B2E approach to healthcare encourages creating partnerships between different areas of the field to improve health outcomes and patient experience, as well as help control the cost of healthcare.
To approach healthcare with a B2E mindset, rehabilitation providers must gain a better understanding of dynamics within the broader healthcare ecosystem. This encourages specific healthcare providers to step away from a self-contained approach to care, which fails to recognize or appreciate how individual practices can affect the entire healthcare ecosystem.
Specifically, this entails a large amount of relationship building. Before a provider opts to collaborate with stakeholders, they must confirm they clearly understand their objectives. This helps them discover new opportunities for aligning priorities, collaborating, and uncovering gaps in patient care.
The path that patients travel throughout their treatment is rarely a straight line. For most patients, recovery does not simply entail entering a rehab program, completing that program, and then leading a healthy life without any additional care. Instead, they will work with many other healthcare providers along the way, both in and out of rehab. And the more providers they visit for treatment, the more the patient will be exposed to the wider healthcare ecosystem.
From diagnosis to treatment and beyond, parties within the ecosystem are given many chances to collaborate so they can improve treatment, resolve undesirable effects, make it easier for patients to manage costs, reduce any system complexities, reach health equity, and provide better access to care. In an ideal B2E scenario, all parties will be able to work successfully as a team, focusing on a shared understanding of the problems that need to be solved, openness to compromising on the end goal, and aligned incentives.
Simply put, unlike with a traditional B2C model, the goal of healthcare entities shouldn’t be to outperform competitors by acquiring the most business or the highest profits. Rather, B2E prioritizes building relationships with other entities and then using those relationships to solve problems within the healthcare ecosystem itself. This improves the patient’s experience throughout their entire treatment and leads to better outcomes for their recovery.
A Change in Organization
Before you can transition to a B2E approach in your practice, you’ll need to analyze your organizational capabilities and possibly make some key changes. Even if you’re concerned that you’ll need to rewire your organization completely, it’s important to remember that you can start out by making small changes. Learn about the steps you can take to encourage collaborative relationships and the strategies you can use to get the most value out of these partnerships.
To make this change, your organization will need to build new internal capabilities. This could involve improving your cross-functional work abilities or ensuring that you have the correct motivational systems and metrics in place. However, these are serious changes that can take a substantial amount of time, so approach this overhaul one step at a time. Start small with minor changes and, before you know it, your organization will achieve more success in securing partnerships within the healthcare ecosystem.
Treating the Whole Person — Not Just the Addiction
Another important development in healthcare involves the idea of treating the “whole patient,” a philosophy that has only continued to gain prominence over the years. This is a versatile approach to treatment that can be adapted to virtually any scenario in any type of healthcare practice. Rehabilitation providers have noticed this trend, and many have made a concerted effort to include “whole patient” care in their own treatment programs.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are over 2 million adults in the United States with co-occurring disorders. This refers to experiencing substance abuse disorder along with one or more other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Research shows that patients with pre-existing mental health disorders are more likely to develop substance use disorders, and it is vital to treat both to help the patient make a full recovery.
In the past, healthcare practices tended to separate physical healthcare from behavioral or mental healthcare. This meant that an individual with both physical and mental health needs would see different healthcare providers, each focused solely on one aspect of care, and these treatment plans would rarely intertwine.
In a rehabilitation setting, this can be especially damaging. In rehab, co-occurring disorders are highly common, and mental conditions can play a powerful role in the individuals’ long-term physical health. For instance, if someone is currently attending rehab due to substance dependency, their mental health could be impacting their willingness and motivation to stay sober and remain on top of their treatment.
If providers are not treating mental health conditions along with the substance use disorder, this can severely impact the patient’s overall progress. To keep their treatment on track, providers will need to focus on treating the “whole person” rather than just the addiction.
Although this is an area in which rehabilitation providers have improved, it’s still common for physical and behavioral health treatment to occur independently of one another. Due to this lack of coordination, many patients and providers continue to see gaps in care, increased costs, or even inappropriate care options.
Substance dependency, as with any other serious medical condition, doesn’t exist within a vacuum. This means that rehab providers must treat all other facets of a patient’s health that may affect their substance use disorder or reduce their willingness to seek treatment.
Putting More Time, Effort, and Money into Prevention
For decades, healthcare in the United States has placed far more of an emphasis on treating disease than preventing it in the first place. However, much of the time, it makes more sense to intervene before costly medical care becomes necessary. In recent years, health care providers have begun to dedicate much of their practice to providing preventative services.
Some of the deadliest conditions are preventable in many cases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, some forms of cancer, and more. These conditions are common and costly, but they can often be prevented through certain healthy lifestyle choices.
As the healthcare industry continues to adapt towards prevention, rehabilitation providers are also speaking more openly about the benefits of prevention. The treatment necessary to overcome substance dependency is time-consuming, draining for the patient, and expensive. In addition, many individuals recovering from an addiction will need continued care, sometimes for years after exiting a rehab program. In every case, preventing substance use disorder before it starts is the preferred option for the patient’s health and well-being.
Therefore, it is particularly important to continue promoting programs that can provide patient care before an addiction develops. Patients with untreated mental health disorders often use substances to self-medicate, so many addictions could be prevented if the individual had better access to mental health care. This demonstrates why mental health care is a valuable preventative service when it comes to keeping individuals away from addiction and out of rehab.
Apogee System Consultants Helps Rehab Centers Grow
At Apogee System Consultants, we are on the front line of helping the healthcare industry grow and navigate significant changes to prioritize patient care and safety. Our team provides a variety of valuable services to behavioral healthcare providers, including:
- Management Consulting Services
- Revenue Cycle Assessments and Advice
- Research Beyond the Business Plan (including strategic marketing development, operations and business process optimization, and more)
If you are a healthcare provider looking to make a change in how your organization operates or engages with patients, we urge you to learn more about the services we offer.