Preparing for the New Normal

Preparing for the New Normal

Joanna Conti
Originally Posted:


The last 5 months have been gut-wrenchingly difficult for everyone and the next year isn’t likely to be any easier.  Open Mind’s CEO Monica Oss wrote a thoughtful summary of the challenges ahead for treatment programs in a recent article, “The Reopening Paradox: Getting From Here to There”.  (By the way, if you’re not receiving her excellent emails every evening, I recommend you start doing so immediately).  

The future likely holds three interrelated challenges for addiction treatment providers:


1. More people are going to need addiction treatment, but fewer will be able to afford it


Americans are dealing with unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress brought on by pandemic-related health fears, job losses and isolation.  With unemployment at the highest level since the Great Depression, millions of families are suddenly in grave danger of not being able to pay for food and/or of losing their homes or apartments.  Many of the unemployed have also lost their health insurance.

Predictably, multiple studies show that both alcohol usage and drug overdoses have increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic.  Heart-breaking stories about people in long-term recovery who’ve relapsed since March have become common.  Unfortunately, many of the people who desperately need help with their addiction have lost their insurance or need to focus instead on paying for basic necessities.


2. Telehealth is here to stay, particularly in outpatient settings


While engaging virtually is more challenging than face-to-face and “Zoom fatigue” is real, there’s a significant portion of the population who prefers telehealth for its convenience. 

Unfortunately, a recent Qualifacts survey of over 1,000 behavioral health care staff found that only 44% of clinicians believe their EMRs adequately support virtual care.  In a recent Open Minds’ webinar, Greg Wellems, the Executive Director of Keystone Human Services, talked about the need for real-time data transfer to offset telehealth’s disadvantages.  He also stressed the importance of having business intelligence tools that enable you to easily analyze the patient data you’re collecting so you can use it to shape strategy. 

Vista’s INSIGHT Addiction™ software does both.  For as little as $349 per month, your clinicians can view easy-to-understand graphs that show in real-time how depressed, anxious, and/or suicidal your patients are along with their level of cravings, satisfaction with treatment and other issues.  Your managers can instantly analyze 40 patient-reported metrics (such as the improvement in depression scores during treatment and the percentage of patients leaving AMA) by program, by clinician, and by date in Vista’s data analytics platform.


3. Staying afloat financially is going to be the biggest challenge for most centers over the next few years


Not only have many programs had to reduce their census to meet social distancing requirements, but the impact of reduced revenues on state and local funding is likely to be severe.

No doubt you’ve already scrutinized your budget to slash expenses.  You need to be similarly creative about finding opportunities to attract more cash pay clients, each of whom can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Fortunately, there’s no question about what patients who are able to pay the full price are looking for – treatment that has proven it works.  Vista’s research shows that the success rates of even highly-respected addiction treatment programs vary tremendously.  Online directories like Conquer Addiction’s that allow families to identify and contact rehabs with the best independently-validated success rates are an inexpensive way to attract these highly-sought-after patients.

If you’re providing truly-effective treatment, let us help you prove it.  A small investment now will pay large dividends down the road. 

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