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By Monica E. Oss

Consumers expect three things from technology: convenience, affordability, and quality service. This morning OPEN MINDS Senior Associate, Deb Adler opened the OPEN MINDS Consumer Engagement Technologies Summit with this concept. These consumer preferences, which mirror payer preferences, are shaping a “new normal” in health and human service delivery.

Ms. Adler’s presentation made me think more about the immediate changes that technology is causing in the health and human service system—in the delivery of therapy, in the restructuring of primary care, and in the clinical and service workforce. And why consumer engagement is essential to success in the emerging delivery system.

The all-star lineup of faculty at the summit provided some “hands on” examples of how consumer engagement technologies are reshaping service delivery in their organizations. Case study presenters included Janelle Wesloh, Vice President of Clinical Excellence, Innovation and Recovery Management, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation; David Benavidez, M.D., Fellow, AltaPointe Health; Michelle A. Blackmore, Ph.D., Project Director, Montefiore Medical Center; Amy McDaniel, Director of Business & Services Development, Centerstone; Wayne Easterwood, Chief Administrative Officer, Centerstone; Roberta Montemayor, Director for Telehealth, Optum Behavioral Health; and Bruce L. Bird, Ph.D., President & Chief Executive Officer, Vinfen.

Consumer participation in therapy is changing—both in more service delivery in integrated systems and the growing consumer and payer preference for tech-enabled therapy (see What Will Mental Health Treatment Look Like In The Years Ahead?). Optum’s new Virtual Visits, presented by Ms. Montemayor, is a great example. Optum now has over 4,700 clinical professionals across the country offering virtual services—with consumer copayments and payments to the professionals the same as face-to-face sessions (see Virtual Visits: An Overview Of Telemental Health Services From Optum). Optum has found lower use of inpatient care and higher net promoter scores for the consumers participating in virtual care.

Then there are changes to primary care that are possible due to new technologies (see The Primary Care Reinvention). AltaPointe’s “telemed carts” in hospitals, presented by Dr. Benavidez, is a great example of how technology can promote better integration with primary care. These carts enable physicians to get psychiatric consults and mental health professionals to gain access to primary care consults in Altapointe psychiatric hospitals (see Using Technology To Advance Healthcare).

And technology is changing how clinical professionals service consumers (see Workforce Problems? Technology As Strategy). Hazelden’s MyRecovery Compass, presented by Ms. Wesloh, is an interactive online portal that supports the consumer’s care plan as part of Feedback Informed Treatment (FIT), allowing consumers to access educational opportunities, message directly with their care team, view appointments, connect with the Hazelden Betty Ford social community (see Addiction Treatment Using Digital Treatment Support: The Hazelden Betty Ford Model). Another example was presented by Dr. Blackmore, Montefiore’s interactive smartphone consumer portal, called Valera. Using this app, Montefiore has a way to provide consumer education material, consumer self-management prompts, case management data for clinicians, and medication adherence prompts (see Using Interactive Technology To Enhance Collaborative Care For Diverse Patients With Depression And Anxiety In Primary Care). And finally, Mr. Easterwood and Ms. McDaniel presented Centerstone’s Care App, which provides consumers with a self-management care plan, clinicians with a case management and consumer engagement tool, and a 24/7 crisis hotline (see A Journey: Digital Apps In Care). These apps change the consumer relationship with their care team, give consumers and caregivers access to new resources, and promote better engagement and adherence to care plans.

(From left to right): Deb Adler, David Benavidez, M.D., Roberta Montemayor, Amy McDaniel, Wayne Easterwood, Janelle Wesloh, and Bruce L. Bird, Ph.D. present at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Consumer Engagement Technologies Summit

There were a couple common themes across all the case studies of consumer engagement technologies. First, there are many consumer engagement and consumer-facing technology options—and finding what an organization needs is a challenge. And, even when new consumer engagement technologies are selected and up and running, getting acceptance from clinical staff is the most difficult challenge. On the selection issue, Dr. Bird shared some of the challenges that come with the selection of new technologies. For example, in 2015 Vinfen was forced to replace one of their mobile technologies (Health Buddy) when the maker, Bosch, left the U.S. telehealth market (see Bosch Healthcare Leaves U.S. Telehealth & Remote Monitoring Market). In the search for a replacement, Vinfen looked at 11 vendors and then selected Phillips Telestation (a similar device to Health Buddy). During the process, the organization developed a 73 category decision matrix, which it plans to publish in the coming months (see Adopting New Technologies In Community Behavioral Health: Resources For CEOs/Clinical Directors).

The cultural change is a big one. Repeatedly, the executives presenting said that consumer are “ready, willing, and able” and payers are on board. But, getting clinical professionals to embrace consumer engagement technologies is the challenge that needs to be met for success—Ms. Wesloh explained that most clinicians are all for it philosophically, but resist when it’s time to adopt, they struggle to make the shift away from traditional treatment models. Mr. Easterwood said he’d been surprised at how large a barrier organizational momentum could prove to be; noting that without organizational support at every level, it can be difficult to gain a sustained acceptance of any new technology. Ms. McDaniel added that this process can be extensive and take longer than planned to get everyone behind an adoption. One resounding theme from the entire panel was that with consumer acceptance of new tech and the payer push for value-based care have converged, making technology a necessity to be successful in the future.

Tomorrow, the institute will address these issues—and more. For more on how tech is making changes in the health and human services space, don’t miss our coverage the rest of the week at 2018 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute. You can follow us at @openmindscircle for live social media coverage of this year’s event. To join the discussion on Twitter, use this year’s official hashtag: #OMTechnology. And don’t miss my keynote address, broadcasting from Facebook live on Wednesday at 12:00 Eastern!

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