Expanding Access to Care for Better Public Health
According to a poll released in May 2022 by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, 43% of U.S. adults who say they needed substance use or mental health services had unmet needs. Barriers to care made a variety of negative impacts including:
For public health agencies – already battered by the pandemic and staff shortages – meeting the demand may seem like an insurmountable challenge. But for all the damage the pandemic has done, it has accelerated the usage and the acceptance of alternative approaches to providing care and services. Technology that supports virtual care, services in the field and communication and collaboration among providers can be leveraged to expand access to care, improve outcomes and help clinicians get more done in less time with less stress.
To combat this, agencies can develop a strategy to integrate these appropriate technology platforms into their operations and serve the growing need for the need for mental health services and substance use treatment.
To become an integral part of service delivery, virtual care technology must offer more than secure, real-time videoconferencing capabilities. The platform should offer functionality that creates as nearly as possible the same substance and connection as an in-person visit:
Beyond the technical capabilities, agencies should also focus on strategies to make it possible for consumers without internet or smartphones to access virtual care. Social workers can engage with community resources, such as libraries, churches and shelters, to provide access to a computer in a private area.
Mobile technology for services in the field
Mobile technology lets agencies increase community outreach, extending services to consumers who otherwise cannot access services. It can extend the functionality of the EHR and allow clinicians to deliver quality care anywhere. But the number one requirement must be ease of use – the technology should simplify and support service delivery, not complicate it.
Mobile solution functionality should include:
In addition to developing a mobile technology strategy, agencies should also focus on how they will promote field services, targeting consumers who may otherwise miss or skip follow-up visits and therapy.
Communication and collaboration among providers
Agencies need to connect with the larger healthcare ecosystem to coordinate care, make informed decisions at the point of care and seamlessly facilitate referrals to community partners.
An integration engine that enhances interoperability can eliminate data siloes and empower a more holistic and whole-person view within a system. The integration engine should support federal and state policies and standards for health information exchange, including privacy and security standards (such as HIPAA), technology interoperability standards (such as Direct) and message types (such as HL7 and CCDA).
In addition, the integration engine should be able to:
As a result, agencies can reduce costs and improve safety by minimizing redundant or unnecessary treatment. The populations they serve benefit by receiving true, whole-person care that is coordinated across disciplines, care settings and providers.
Learn more about how Netsmart is working to transform public health through technology, connections and collaboration.
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