6 Best Practices for Building Better Patient Support Programs

Two women hugging each other

While patient assistance programs connect patients with low-cost healthcare providers (HCPs) and pharmaceutical companies, patient support programs (PSPs) help patients get specialized care. 

Support programs contribute to better health outcomes by helping patients understand their conditions, treatment plans, and prescription drugs. In behavioral health and human services, patient support programs aim to help active patients adhere to programming and medication plans, as well as to provide ongoing resources to family members, caregivers, and alumni. 

Join us as we highlight various patient support programs, the services and features patients find most useful, and evidence-based best practices for digitally implementing PSPs as a way to improve patient outcomes.

1. Provide Evidence-Based Peer Support Programs

As we all know, relationships affect every aspect of our lives. Whenever we’re facing tough times, we seek out those who can empathize. In the same way that we reach out to someone who we think will understand our feelings, patients can connect with peer support groups that can provide understanding. Peer support provides hope for recovery and a connection with others. As a recovery-oriented patient support program, peer support is becoming more evidence-based within mental health services.

Peer-focused patient support programs have been shown to:

  • Reduce the number of hospitalizations and symptoms
  • Contribute to the community by increasing social support and participation
  • Ensure shorter hospital stays and lower healthcare costs
  • Boost self-esteem, well-being, and social skills
  • Extend recovery times and improve recovery processes

2. Include Family and Alumni in Patient Support Programs

A patient's recovery doesn't end when they leave your facility. Behavioral healthcare professionals strive to help as many patients as possible while expanding their reach. As such, a robust alumni program is essential.

An alumni program is a community of previous patients who have graduated from any level of care, treatment, or programming your center offers. Patients are more likely to stay connected to a recovery community and treatment center that offers long-term support and resources with free or low-cost pricing.

An alumni community that works well creates a strong bond between the alumni and the treatment center, leading to referrals. It can also help to get alumni who may need additional help or services back into treatment sooner rather than later. You can also use enrollment in alumni support groups to stay in touch and recognize important sobriety or recovery milestones.

3. Reward Recovery and Compliance With Contingency Management

Patient support programs: couple happily looking at a phone

When individuals are sufficiently motivated, contingency management can demonstrate their capability to change their behavior. Developing confidence over time helps patients overcome guilt or low self-esteem.

Contingency management is a type of patient support program in which patients have opportunities to win prizes as reinforcers of positive behavior changes. Behavioral health patients with limited treatment options can benefit from contingency management. For example, some substance use disorders without FDA-approved treatments can be treated effectively with contingency management. 

As part of a contingency management study, participants were randomly assigned either to standard care (counseling and treatment) or standard care plus contingency management — a chance to win snacks and other prizes when they tested negative for stimulants and alcohol.

In the contingency management group, 84% of participants remained in treatment for 8 weeks compared to only 22% in the standard treatment group. By the end, 69% of patients receiving contingency management maintained sobriety, while 61% of those receiving standard treatment alone had relapsed.

In this study, patients were able to earn around $200 worth of prizes. However, prizes can be whatever the program director chooses as long as it gives patients the motivation they need to make positive changes.

4. Make Patient Education a Priority

To learn more about their medical conditions, including mental health conditions, patients often turn to online searches. The good news is that curiosity indicates that your patient may be ready to take responsibility for and participate in their care. The internet, however, is full of misleading content that could harm your patients’ overall quality of life. 

A reliable source of information is essential for patients when making decisions. Health information available online is easily accessible, but the quality and usefulness of information vary greatly from source to source. Patients' health-related decisions can be adversely affected by inaccurate or outdated health information.

By providing your patient with educational sources they can trust, you can improve patient outcomes in several ways. First, activation through education is known to drive better clinical outcomes by improving patient activation and driving shared decision-making. Patient Activation Measures associated with patient education include:

  • Self-manage illness
  • Take part in pro-health activities
  • Maintain functionality
  • Understand side effects
  • Access support services
  • Participate in health and medical decisions
  • Collaborate with providers
  • Better utilize health insurance coverage
  • Select quality and performance-based providers
  • Navigate the healthcare system with ease
  • Reduce adverse events

5. Streamline Your Patient Support Programs With the CaredFor App

You can also use app-based PSPs to provide personalized care plans, offer peer support, create contingency management rewards, improve patient education, and build long-lasting relationships with current and former patients. The CaredFor app is a patient engagement platform that supports patients while leading them toward personalized treatment goals. Here’s a closer look at some of the app’s features.

Peer-Support Programs

Qualified patients can access peer support groups through the CaredFor app. Your organization has the ability to moderate your online peer groups, helping to promote the positive environment and interactions that are right for your programming.

Contingency Management Programs

Contingency management is part of the CaredFor patient engagement app. Patients become more engaged when they are empowered to take responsibility for their health. Engaged patients are more likely to adhere to their treatment plan for a longer period, and sustained abstinence is a reliable indicator of long-term recovery from substance abuse.

Alumni Support Programs

In addition to building a stronger community, treatment centers with strong alumni programs also see more referrals. As program alums are the most reliable sources of referrals, an alumni program can both help former patients and reach new patients. You can use the CaredFor app to organize patient support groups for alumni, family members, and caregivers to keep them engaged. Plus, you can use digital tools to recognize recovery milestones and achievements, and provide peer support. 

Patient Education Programs

The CaredFor app also provides patients with up-to-date educational material from vetted sources that you choose and that match your programming style. Take control of the information your patients access and help their patients overcome obstacles like misleading information while boosting their levels of health literacy. 

6. Personalize Patient Support Programs

As part of an ongoing effort to improve chronic care management services, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services offers regulatory guidance on patient-centered care plans. Unfortunately, the meaning of “personalized care plan” can get lost in the legalese. Complex and difficult-to-understand mandates can lead to a greater administrative burden, which is an excellent reason to adopt the use of Care Journeys.

Behavioral health professionals can use Care Journeys to support patients by designing engaging and personalized digital patient journeys. The result is a highly targeted, computerized roadmap to well-being for each patient. Within each Care Journey, eligible patients will find their treatment and programming goals, milestones, and personal notifications. Most importantly, patients will be notified of new tools and resources as they become available.

Care Journeys create a central record to encourage collaboration among multiple providers. Using ContinuumCloud’s electronic health record (EHR) system, you can incorporate detailed notes so that all providers can understand the full range of the patient’s care plan.

As part of the Care Journey, patients help set treatment goals. To ensure compliance, experts recommend aligning care with patient concerns. You need to ask the patient what matters most to them, including their physical activity, sleep, diet, development, family, spirituality, and environment. You can then define specific goals and start building a patient-centered care plan using this information.

Care Journeys emphasize efficient care management. Behavioral health patients often have multiple issues that clinical teams must manage. Accordingly, behavioral health interventions should be integrated into care plans to manage a patient's complexity.

Invest in a Robust Digital Platform for Patient Support Programs

Patient support programs: woman using her phone

ContinuumCloud’s automation technology enables providers to deliver a personalized digital experience to patients regularly. In addition to improving the patient's experience between sessions, you can use the patient support programs in the CaredFor app to drive activation, increase time in recovery, improve patient retention and engage alumni, families, and caregivers after completing formal treatment.

To learn more ways ContinuumCloud can help you deliver quality patient care and improve your financial footing, connect with us today. 

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