5 strategies for reducing addiction treatment staffing shortage

5 strategies for reducing addiction treatment staffing shortage ...

In the addiction treatment industry, a worst-case scenario has developed in the last few years: The need for treatment has increased exponentially, while the amount of clinical personnel has rapidly decreased.

The need for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment has never been greater, with an estimated 60 million people in the United States using substances that would benefit from therapy — and more over 100,000 overdose deaths last year alone.

Currently, employee turnover in the industry is as high as 50%, with about 25% of those who have left indicating that they do not intend to return to the workplace within the next five years. This substantial deficit will without doubt put millions of people at risk and could cost thousands of lives.

While workforce recruitment and development must remain a top concern, we need also immediate and innovative solutions that can provide essential stop-gap care solutions.

Despite the beneficial impact of technology today, behavioral health will need to increase its use of technology to meet increasing demand, owing to a persistent and growing shortage of critical staffing.

Individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders have a wide spectrum of difficulties that may, literally, be life or death. Staff are not always available 24 hours a day to review all calls to determine what are routine or crisis calls. Chatbots can be successfully employed to answer simple calls related to appointments and other treatment related concerns, allowing personnel to interact directly with those individuals who are experiencing an emergency or seeking treatment.

Chatbots that utilize AI to engage individuals during a crisis or keep them engaged during the recovery can be a lifeline. Many patients are unable to tell the difference due to its high speed.

The field of substance abuse disorder treatment has lag behind the larger medical community in tracking and responding to patient outcome indicators. In fact, there is currently no clear or agreed-upon consensus on optimal outcomes. Providers must identify the strategies necessary to achieve these outcomes.

Microsoft Zoom is now fully HIPAA-compliant, allowing patients to receive treatment in locations where access to treatment is difficult or difficult, such as areas with high crime activity. This is crucial when traveling isn't feasible.

Well-designed virtual services have proven to be successful in most applications, and insurance companies are fully accepting this new technique, which will soon become a mainstream component of modern addiction treatment.

Wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and others have revolutionized the healthcare and fitness industries, providing insight into vital data such as heart, respiratory, and temperature measurements, and assisting in incentivizing wellness behaviors to reduce the risk of cardiopulmonary diseases.

Similar to addiction monitoring, these devices can be used to reward positive behaviors and highlight signs that relapse are on the way. It can also be used to remind and reinforce positive behaviors such as exercising, meditation, and other stress management techniques.

Wearable devices offer the opportunity for healthcare providers to monitor patients' blood pressure, pulse, and respirations in the event of a medical emergency.

Every minute spent on administrative work is one less time spent with patients, according to providers, and this results in workflow errors and bottlenecks that prevent clinicians from seeing patients.

The pharmaceutical business is working to improve documentation systems by incorporating new technologies that make the process more efficient and person-centered. This allows clinicians to be more engaged with patients and reduces administrative stress, with the aim of dissuading them from leaving the business.

Long-term patient interaction for up to 12 months produces a 60-80% success rate, compared to just 30% for a 90-day inpatient stay, both anecdotally and through research.

Despite the potential for addiction treatment to revolutionize, we must also recognize that there are still some significant limitations for both providers and patients. First, many providers are struggling with affordable technology and seeing improved outcomes, improved efficiency, and increased patient involvement. The majority of facilities are small and do not have the resources — both human and financial — to construct and maintain advanced technologies.

Some people can't afford it, but others simply don't believe in it, preferring instead to continue with only face-to-face treatment options. And, because not all payers support tech transformation, it's difficult for providers to justify the investment.

On the patient side, inadequate access to devices and connectivity may be a problem. After all, if you've lost your job and perhaps even your home because of addiction, it's difficult to afford a mobile device and internet service. Others may not be tech-savvy or interested in trying a new skill, especially when already facing many other obstacles.

Even with these obstacles, we can still make an enormous impact by leveraging technology to reach more patients with life-saving treatments. Leveraging technology for better outcomes, improved access to care, and improved efficiency is not just an option, but also an obligation. With the United States on track to witness 150,000 overdose deaths this year, the moment has come.

Thomas Britton is the CEO of American Addiction Centers.

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