For those working in the behavioral health and human services (BHHS) industry, there are several challenges that are particularly urgent and require prompt attention: improving access to care for patients, care coordination, addressing workforce shortages, utilizing technology for employee engagement, and promoting health equity by addressing social determinants of health.
While these are complex issues that organizations face, the good news is that there are solutions to overcome such obstacles. To that end, we’ll offer some detailed insights into these challenges and offer behavioral health solutions to address them.
Top Priorities and Challenges for BHHS
Recognizing the needs, challenges, roadblocks, and priorities of the behavioral health industry is a crucial step in creating an effective and efficient healthcare system. Understanding the complexities of care delivery can assist providers in identifying areas for improvement, developing effective strategies, and implementing solutions to address the pressing issues facing patients with behavioral health conditions.
Based on the findings of ContinuumCloud's Behavioral Health Industry Trends Report for 2023, there are five significant areas of concern.
- Increasing access to care: The need to expand access to behavioral health services, particularly in underserved communities, and to remove barriers to care, such as stigma and cost, are major challenges.
- Improving care coordination: In behavioral health and human services, care coordination includes integrating physical and behavioral health care, improving care transitions, and enhancing provider collaboration.
- Addressing recruitment and retention: The behavioral health industry faces a national health crisis resulting from a shortage of trained professionals. Efforts must be made to recruit and retain a diverse and skilled workforce.
- Boosting employee engagement: Research shows that important engagement factors include reward and recognition, technology, ongoing training, workplace environment, leadership commitment, and mission-values alignment. Behavioral health organizations must develop strong leadership, provide professional development opportunities, and foster a positive work environment to improve employee engagement.
- Advancing health equity: Digital health solutions that address issues like social determinants of health, such as poverty and housing insecurity, is vital to measurably improving outcomes for individuals with behavioral health conditions. We must find behavioral health solutions that promote health equity and reduce health disparities.
Increasing Access to Care
Embracing technology solutions can be a game-changer for the behavioral health industry. By leveraging technological advancements, providers can deliver more personalized, efficient, and cost-effective care to those with behavioral health conditions.
In an era when technology is ubiquitous, it makes sense for providers to embrace these tools and create a more connected, efficient, and patient-centric healthcare system. There are several types of technology that are useful in improving access to care in the behavioral health industry, including:
- Electronic health records (EHR): EHRs improve access to care by allowing providers to access and share patient information easily yet securely. EHR technology also reduces medical errors, ensures continuity of care, and improves patient outcomes.
- Online communities: So much of today’s world is digital, making it imperative to meet patients where they are. Online communities and forums connect patients to peer support, which reduces feelings of isolation and stigma while providing a sense of belonging.
- Mobile apps: Mobile patient engagement apps have features that support patients in managing their behavioral health conditions by providing support and tools for self-management. These patient engagement apps may also provide telehealth services and online community features to ensure well-being.
- Chat and messaging: Communication modalities extend access to behavioral health services and provide immediate support to patients between appointments.
The use of technologies like these allows providers to offer a wider range of services, reach more patients, and improve patient outcomes while enhancing the patient experience. The potential benefits are enormous, which is why it’s essential for the behavioral health industry to continue to innovate and adapt to meet the needs of its patients.
Improving Care Coordination
Care coordination is critical in providing comprehensive and effective behavioral health care. Here are three technologies that can help you achieve these goals.
- A comprehensive EHR system enhances care coordination by making patient information accessible in real-time to primary care, behavioral health services, and other health professionals, like licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) and substance use disorder clinicians. EHR systems prevent errors, reduce wait times, and promote continuity. Additionally, EHRs send mental health providers alerts and reminders to ensure that follow-up appointments occur and medication is given per the patient’s treatment plan.
- Data analytics provide useful insights into patient needs, preferences, and treatment outcomes. With data analytics, providers can identify patterns in patient behavior, develop more targeted interventions, and improve overall care coordination.
- Asynchronous solutions like chat and messaging enable mental health service providers to reach out for referrals and communicate outside the traditional office setting, allowing for better care coordination.
Addressing Workforce Challenges
From onboarding employees more effectively to filling positions quickly to developing an effective recruitment and retention strategy, cloud-based human capital management (HCM) software is among the most powerful behavioral health solutions to address these challenges.
Recruitment and Retention
HCM software can streamline the recruitment process by assisting providers in posting job openings on multiple job boards, tracking applications, and communicating with candidates. It also assists providers in developing retention strategies by analyzing employee engagement and satisfaction, identifying employee turnover risks, and improving communication with staff.
With the right HCM platform, your organization can easily create and manage employee development programs. HCM tools help you track employee training and certifications, provide performance reviews, and offer e-learning opportunities, all of which may improve employee retention and increase job satisfaction.
HCM software enables organizations to plan for future workforce needs by analyzing current and projected staffing needs, identifying skill gaps, and developing strategies to address them. It also offers workforce analytics that can support data-driven decisions about your labor pool.
Payroll and Benefits Management
An HCM solution can help you manage payroll and benefits administration, including tax filing and compliance. By utilizing technology, you can reduce the administrative burden on HR staff and focus on more strategic activities.
Time and Attendance Management
Time and attendance software makes it easier to track employee time and attendance, manage schedules, and ensure compliance with labor laws. It’s also a convenient and practical solution for remote workforces or field-based staff who need to clock in or out from non-office locations.
Boosting Employee Engagement
Studies show a link between engaged healthcare staff and better patient safety. Here are just a few behavioral health solutions that can boost employee engagement.
- Employee self-service: Offering a benefits administration portal that gives employees access to payroll details, benefits plans, and training records can help them feel more in control and, at the same time, more connected to their organization, which can improve engagement and retention.
- Performance management: A comprehensive HCM platform should provide tools for managers and employees to collaborate on goal setting, track progress, and provide feedback. This can improve employees' understanding of their impact on the organization and provide opportunities for professional development.
- Recognition and rewards: Look for an HCM platform that includes tools for recognizing and rewarding employees for their achievements. By providing recognition and rewards, organizations can create a positive work environment and encourage employees to continue performing at a high level.
Advancing Health Equity
Health equity is a critical priority in the behavioral health industry, as patients with mental health and substance use disorders are more likely to experience health disparities and barriers to accessing care. Several tech-forward behavioral health solutions can help you promote health equity.
Telepsychiatry promotes health equity by expanding access to care for those in rural and underserved areas. Telehealth, in general, overcomes geographic and transportation barriers to care, providing individuals with access to psychiatric care regardless of location.
Multilingual Resources and Support
Behavioral health technology that offers multilingual resources reduces language barriers to care and promotes health equity. Features to look for include online resources, educational materials, and mobile apps available in multiple languages.
Cultural Competency Training
Offer cultural competency training to improve healthcare providers' cultural awareness, reducing care disparities and promoting health equity. Training should include modules on culturally appropriate care, patient communication, and best practices for working with diverse patient populations.
Data analytics is excellent at identifying disparities in care and informing strategies for promoting health equity. By analyzing data on patient demographics, treatment outcomes, and healthcare utilization, healthcare providers can better identify gaps in care and develop targeted interventions to address these disparities.
Mobile apps foster health equity by providing access to mental health services. Look for apps that provide self-help tools, educational resources, and peer support so patients can address their mental health needs and overcome barriers to accessing care.
Mental health apps have the ability to reduce stigma by providing a discreet and accessible way for individuals to get the information and support that may ease some of the fear and stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental health issues. Mental health apps with telehealth capability may also reduce costs by providing an affordable alternative to in-person therapy.
Invest in Robust Behavioral Health Solutions
Addressing the needs, challenges, and priorities of the behavioral health industry is a daunting task, but it’s critical for improving patient outcomes, promoting health equity, and creating a more patient-centric healthcare system. As with any complex situation, it requires a methodical approach — and BHHS professionals can use technology to start the process.
To learn more about how ContinuumCloud’s suite of behavioral health solutions can help your organization improve patient engagement, access to care, health equity, and employee recruitment and retention, connect with us today.