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By Monica E. Oss

Strategy and innovation. Right now in the health and human service market, these two concepts go hand-in-hand. For most organizations in the field, building a strategy for sustainability requires innovation. Just expanding traditional services and service lines is not enough.

But, it is important to remember that innovation is more than creativity. Innovation is the process of translating a new idea into a service that creates value for the organization and its customers.

Historically, the health and human service field has not been quick to “innovate.” There are two key issues. First, there is not a consistent process for determining what innovations should have widespread adoption and support. There is a real lack of proof-of-concept, return-on-investment, and plans for scalability for most “innovations.” The return-on-investment issues are complicated by lack of standard “end points” for evaluating innovations in the field. What is the “performance” that we are trying to achieve? It depends on who you talk to.

Second, the path from innovation to adoption in the health and human service field is a long one. It takes over a decade for a proven “best practice” innovation to get to at least half of consumers who need it. The reasons are related to some of the core management competencies of organizations in the field. Purchasers (both health plans and provider organizations) often put innovations in place without a proof of concept, which leads to many “failed” innovation initiatives. In addition, management teams need to adopt best practices for integrating new innovations into operating processes, including data integration (consumer data outside of the EHR is consumer data that is less than useful). Finally, an organization’s leaders need to lead the “change management process”—showing the team why the innovation is linked to future strategy and sustainability.

So what is happening with innovation among organizations that serve consumers with chronic conditions and complex support needs? I shared the results of our recent innovation adoption survey in my opening remarks, The 2018 OPEN MINDS National Innovation Survey: Innovation Adoption Among Specialty Provider Organizations, today at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute. We did a national survey of provider organizations in this sector-behavioral health, children’s services, long-term services, and primary care/FQHC organization. The results are revealing. The most adopted innovations are peer support programs, telehealth, and medications for addiction treatment.

Peer support was the most common innovation adopted by provider organizations for all market areas-behavioral health, child and family services, I/DD or LTSS, and primary care or FQHC-at 59% of organizations. This wasn’t a surprise. The recent research on the effectiveness of peer support is very interesting-Does Peer Support Pay?, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Finds Addiction-Focused Peer Support Program Reduces Readmissions, and Task Shifting To Bend The Cost Curve.

The use of MAT has increased in the past year. In 2017, we found that 44% of organizations were using MAT. That number increased ten percentage points, to 59% in 2018. I think this one is of no surprise. With the rise of the opioid epidemic, we’ve seen MAT join the national conversation and less stigma associated with this treatment. Additionally, SAMHSA has begun to relax the rules on who can prescribe MAT (see SAMHSA Training To Allow Nurse Practitioners & Physician Assistants To Prescribe Buprenorphine).

Telehealth adoption also increased across all specialty care markets. In 2017, 44% of organizations reported implementing telehealth programs; in 2018, this increased to 50%. We expect the market to continue driving this trend in the future-with more coverage of telehealth services across all payers, changes in licensure requirements, and an increase in value-based reimbursement (see For Health Plans, Technology = Improved Consumer Access and VA Proposes Removing State License Restrictions On Telehealth In Its ‘Anywhere To Anywhere’ Program).

One final observation from the survey was that the adoption of eCBT and neurotechnology lags. The proportion of organizations implementing each innovation is less than 10%. I think both of these technologies will become, at some point, a standard part of the treatment continue-but not yet. (For more, see Invaders At The Gate, TMS 10 Years Later and Task Shifting To Bend The Cost Curve.)

For more on the program and treatment innovations provider organizations are implementing, check out The 2018 OPEN MINDS National Innovation Survey: Innovation Adoption Among Specialty Provider Organizations. The survey is available to premium and elite members here. And is available to all others in the OPEN MINDS shop. The survey contains trends on innovation adoption by innovation type, organization size, and organization market.

For more on how to successfully incorporate innovations into your organization’s strategy, stay tuned over the next few days as we discuss strategy and innovation in the context of specialty provider organization management. You can follow us on twitter @openmindscircle #OMstrategy.

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