Coordinated Care in Clinical Mental Health

Nalaka Withanage Allied & Community Health

Providing mental health treatments is always known to be difficult. In 2019, in Victoria, Australia alone, 76,441 people sought mental health treatment from Victoria’s state-funded mental health services. In this post you will learn how coordinated Care can Make a Positive Impact on Clinical Mental Health. 

The administrative load created by reporting obligations, Mental Health Act 2014, diagnostic assessment tools, and record-keeping increases proportionally with the number of patients that mental health services help daily continues to grow. Moreover, in treating mental illness, hospital emergency rooms or EDs play a significant role they aren’t always qualified or aptly suited to play. People go to emergency rooms for several reasons, including the first point of contact or after-hours care.

The virus that causes COVID-19, a multitude of implemented restrictions, ranging from social interaction, travel, business, and border control starting last February 2020 to prevent and decrease the spread of SARS-CoV-2. These restrictions impacted the number of patients seeking mental health services. During a survey of those seeking Victoria’s state-funded mental health services, 75% of participants reported their mental health worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, 99% of participants claimed the effects of self-isolation, quarantine, and social distancing impacted their mental health in the most significant way.

With these numbers and facts, it’s clear the just 3,441 psychiatrists in Australia are simply not enough. This is where technology can come in to help improve the productivity and efficiency of these psychiatrists to reduce the impact of the mental health clinician shortage.

What is Coordinated Care?

Effective healthcare models must include services that reflect a person's overall needs like education, housing, training, employment, accessible health services, and a healthy community, rather than only providing basic physical or mental health treatments.

Shared care, case management, team coordination, collaborative care, and multidisciplinary care are all examples of coordinated care that vary upon services. In practice, coordinated care must ensure that the delivery of individual services across several sectors unify, so clients perceive a coherent service system and lead to better client outcomes.

The basic elements remain the same, despite terminological differences. Discussed below are the issues that coordinated care aims to solve.

Fragmented Services

Oftentimes, mental health facilities and health care, in general, operate with fragmented services. This means patient information is not being shared across departments as a patient works with various specialists. By not sharing this information, patients must go through their entire medical history and explain the current issues they’re looking to resolve multiple times. Clearly, this wastes a significant amount of time for both patients and health care practitioners, particularly in larger mental health care facilities.

Long Wait Times

All too often, people who need mental health treatment end up on a long waiting list to see their mental health practitioner of choice. This can easily lead to the individual who is seeking help simply giving up on finding the help they need. It also slows down the entire process for the practitioner as they attempt to fit in more urgent patient needs at the cost of their existing patients. The practitioner ends up spending just as much time juggling their schedule as they do actually seeing patients disrupting their potential productivity.

Inadequate Clinicians to Meet Demands

With inadequate clinicians to meet patient demands, it becomes essential to empower clinicians with adequate tools to reach their highest levels of productivity. After all, every moment a clinician spends on busywork, such as filling out paperwork, scheduling patients, or sending patient info to other departments, is time not spent helping patients.

Paper-Based Approach

In the modern-day, a paper-based approach brings far too many limitations to what could otherwise be accomplished with the data stored on paper. It prevents any data analysis to improve efficiencies or effectiveness of clinician work and the overall function of healthcare facilities.

Data-Quality Issues

Without proper tools, the quality of data input into any system needs to be questioned. Whether the quality issues stem from inaccurate data input or the way the data is structured, without high-quality data you cannot fully leverage its value.

Care coordination is not a new issue; rather, value-based care has only heightened the importance and urgency of resolving the problem. As the healthcare industry focuses on improving clinical outcomes, successfully managing the patient's growth and journey through all points of care has grown in importance and has been the goal. 

The Challenges of Coordinated Care

There are numerous challenges to be faced when the improvement of coordinated care is underway. As the current healthcare system is complex, divided, and frequently difficult to manage, patients must engage with doctors from various specialisations and different organisations with different methods. Moreover, recent researches discovered the following constraints to care coordination:

Coordinated Care Missteps

Coordinated care includes more than just making sure that staff hand-offs go as planned; it also necessitates a different strategy. When this type of care gets done incorrectly, the results can be catastrophic.

Facilities can trace most coordinated care errors back to a communication breakdown and interaction. The patients' lack of trust and unwillingness to take responsibility for self-management of chronic illnesses can lead to mistakes and worsen their condition. Additionally, interactions with other facilities can also hinder care coordination, especially when receiving opposition from other health care facilities when attempting to obtain information on mutual patients. Good working relationships with external health care facilities, on the other hand, were regarded to be quite helpful.

Data Overload & Data Quality 

As previously said, providing mental health treatments is difficult. It is not only because many ailments are complicated, but it is also due to the large amount of data required to effectively identify, diagnose, and treat many of these ailments. Moreover, Clinicians are frequently overwhelmed with too much data or data that is hard to acquire.

Multiple systems have developed and implemented to improve workflows; however, many do not communicate with one another, hence a major difficulty resulting in the lack of interoperability with specialists and hospital systems. Furthermore, information technology lacking functionality, such as generating reports on specific patient demographics, makes data management more difficult.

Technology Awareness

Employing effective triage, assessments and planning techniques to diagnose and treat various mental health conditions accurately could be effective. The only issue is that data gets distributed over numerous platforms and systems or even stacks of paperwork.

Although there are many constraints to patient care coordination, these challenges can serve as promoters when properly implemented. The necessity of creating excellent relationships, whether with patients, clinicians, or outside groups, is regarded to be a key factor. Though this plays a significant role and still may not solve the issues at hand, it is an unquestionably common ground for success.

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed threats to people’s physical well-being, not only indirectly, but just as importantly, their mental health. As lockdown restrictions forced people to stay in their homes, mental health issues became more apparent.

With an influx of mental health concerns reported, especially during these trying times, healthcare workers are swamped with more data than they can handle. Thus, a need for a more data-driven, systematic system, such as coordinated care, can be extremely beneficial in providing top-notch healthcare services.

As patients or clients seek professional help, it is only reasonable that the system should not fail the professionals too. While all of these flaws in the mental health service delivery environment are substantial, there are always efforts and measures that help ensure that these parts are addressed and coordinated so that clinicians and admin staff alleviate their workloads. If you want to learn more about how fit-for-purpose technology can address these issues, do not hesitate to contact us.

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