In a fast-changing behavioral health treatment industry, leaders of nationally prominent facilities realize that standing pat is no option. Yesterday’s solutions will not suffice to meet today’s demands — from regulators, from accrediting agencies, and from more highly informed consumers and their families. Leaders of one of the most nationally influential names in addiction treatment, Caron Treatment Centers, see data as pivotal in driving the innovation that will help fulfill tomorrow’s challenges.
Over the past year, Caron staff has taken action on a board directive to identify promising strategies for digital health innovation, as it and other treatment facilities strive to become a trusted partner in patient care across the life span. No longer is it acceptable for treatment organizations to define their patient care role within the discrete confines of one residential stay or one course of outpatient treatment sessions.
Upwards of hundreds of hours of workshops, interviews and consultation with subject matter experts have resulted in Caron’s identification of more than a dozen high-level opportunities to improve the business through digital solutions, reports Andrew Heckman, Caron’s corporate IT director. These initiatives will help the organization fulfill important aims in whole-person care, in areas such as helping patients reintegrate successfully into the community after a treatment stay and maintaining productive connections with patients long after they have left the program, Heckman says.
The power of technology remains relevant to Caron’s clinical staff every day. Employees’ level of technical acumen varies considerably in the large organization, so the company’s leaders have emphasized working with systems that promote ease of use. Making the required tasks around documentation easier for clinicians proves crucial “because their job is based on patient care, which is what they should be focused on,” says Justin Holland, director of clinical systems at Caron.
Data solutions have an important impact on both the clinician and the patient at Caron. The IT team has been able to devise solutions that save time for managers and clinical staff as they track patient progress on their treatment plans. This can be monitored weekly without greatly interfering with the clinical schedule at Caron facilities across the country.
Technology also has served as a tool for standardization across Caron’s centers nationwide. “Our charts in Atlanta are the same as they are in Pennsylvania,” says Holland. Standardization allows for benchmarking activity across the organization and drives improvement efforts.
We at Sigmund Software are proud of our longtime partnership with Caron, which dates back to 2005. In fact, Caron was one of our first clients. Our work together helped to define our own effort to establish a dynamic end-to-end solution for behavioral health providers that became our AURA solution.
“One of the greatest things about AURA has been the ability to reinvent on the platform,” Heckman says. “If this hadn’t been the case, we would have looked at another EHR system. I wouldn’t want to think about a new system, and we haven’t had to.”
The AURA platform has given Caron the opportunity to streamline internal processes and enhance communication between Caron’s IT team and clinical staff. Any clinician can place a call and request a report to track factors such as patient outcomes in a particular region, or spikes in substance use in a certain population.
The data can guide the company’s exploration of new initiatives, Heckman says. Sound and timely information often can justify the need to venture into a new specialty program, he says.
Technology also has helped to improve patients’ experience during their stay in treatment. Patients have access to an online portal that summarizes their schedule and treatment plans and also provides other relevant treatment content. The patients remain connected to Caron after treatment and regularly report electronically on their progress on their recovery journey.
Caron’s leaders see the partnership with Sigmund as crucial to maximizing the potential of new developments in the field, including wider use of telehealth and home-based care. “We need a partner who can stay with us as these needs emerge,” Heckman says. Having identified the new opportunities in digital innovation, Caron’s leaders see Sigmund and AURA as playing an important role in executing many of them.
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