Think Tank | The Future of Healthcare Innovation:

Thoughts from the 2015 National Council Conference

Each year the National Council for Behavioral Health hosts one of the largest and most impactful conferences in the country. For me, attending the conference is a time to renew old friendships that don’t receive enough attention during the hectic year and a time to meet new energetic and innovative thinkers. It’s also a time to reflect on the bigger picture related to healthcare innovation–a chance to not only hear about what’s on the horizon from some of the best subject matter experts in the field, but also an opportunity to share ideas about what we, as providers and consumers, want that horizon to look like.

On the first two days of NatCon, I presented with 7 other individuals at the “Innovation Showcase”. For five minutes each day, my fellow presenters and I provided an overview of innovative practices and technologies. I presented “Play By the Rules: Creating an HCBS Compliant Care Plan”, which was a little challenging given the time restrictions but in the end was an exhilarating experience and I’m hopeful that my call for more quality person-centered planning was heard loud and clear. Throughout the conference, attendees also heard from Colin Powell who blended intellect, experience and humor, listened to a compelling recovery story shared by Ashley Judd, and heard about Patrick Kennedy’s pragmatic ideas on how to create true parity and a real environment of recovery. All the sessions and speakers left me feeling inspired, and full of thoughts.

We hear that this is the time for behavioral health to redefine itself in the world of healthcare. I agree that it is, and it may be the last chance we have to get it right for a very long time. However, it is going to take a much clearer vision than what is currently portrayed on the national stage for there to be a true shift in the healthcare paradigm. I believe our direction and compass should not abandon who we are and what we do in behavioral health. We should continue to fight for the traditional healthcare system to accept and embrace the idea that a truly healthy person means one with both a healthy mind and body.

So I ask myself, “Where does that leave us? What can be done?” For one, healthcare innovation has given us tools and practices that are available today that can improve our healthcare system and create a more integrated environment of service delivery, much more than any “one-stop shop” can offer on its own. For example, I recently attended a conference in Chicago called HIMSS, where I was able to witness a demonstration of how technology can be used to not only improve the lives of people, but also save lives. Foothold Technology was selected to present as part of an Interoperability Showcase. In this showcase, the audience listened to a scenario of a young woman diagnosed with cancer and depression. Using technology that is available today and using the scenario of this young woman, healthcare providers outlined how it is possible to access real time pertinent physical and behavioral health information to inform treatment decisions that are holistic and address the patient’s complete treatment needs — an outstanding example of how truly interoperable systems.

Secondly, I believe we need to recognize that those of us with many years in the behavioral health system know we are not perfect at what we do and we can and should do better. Our goal should be to operate in a system of integration and parity. Some integration of physical and behavioral health is possible today, and it’s one giant step in the right direction. But, we must also recognize that other issues of parity must be addressed. We need to recognize that housing and employment are critical to any person’s recovery and health. We need to address socio-economic conditions and the lack of natural supports for people to live in affordable safe housing and find and maintain jobs that pay living wages. As providers we should strive for prevention at the onset of care to help reduce the flow of treatment into the chronic care world. By speaking with Foothold customers and attending conferences like NatCon, I remain inspired by peers who strive for a clear, reasonable vision of lifelong recovery that is based on prevention and early treatment. Providers all across the country remain dedicated to shaping the future of healthcare innovation. Won’t you join them?