We live in a tech-powered, data-driven world, and this applies to everyone, including those who insist they’re not “tech people”. The reality is, nearly all of us manage our lives with the help of technology and information, even if we don’t make the conscious decision to do so. I would also argue that most of us who use information and technology in our everyday lives would agree that our quality of life is improved because of it.
I was speaking to a friend recently who insisted that he didn’t “get” data. That he didn’t need it. That he wasn’t a “tech guy.” But he uses a FitBit to track his workouts. He depends on Google to get him to work by advising him of the fastest route. His music app recommends new tracks based on his previous preferences. And, he’s completely plugged into IoT – like so many of us, he can see who is at his door simply by looking at his phone, and he can adjust his home temperature remotely.
Not bad for a non-tech guy.
These types of experiences are so engrained in our daily lives that many people don’t even consider that technology and data are partnering together in the background making it all possible. For some, “data” can be an intimidating concept – something better reserved for analysts and data scientists. Yet, we all use data to make decisions. We look at price data to make shopping decisions. Many of us perform some lightning-fast price comparison before we click “Buy now” when booking travel. We use nutritional data to track our eating habits. We look at academic data to gauge how our children are performing in school. We watch shifts in the stock market; we monitor credit scores; we search for romantic partners online by entering preferences.
In other words, not only are we using data, or information, every day – but we’re dependent on data for many aspects of our lives.
Better information is better for patients.
But what about improving the way we harness the power of information at treatment centers? Using data to improve patient health is where the real magic happens. So much of helping patients, and guiding them back to health, is about making decisions. And to make smart decisions, one must be informed and guided by facts.
It’s not about proving right or wrong. It’s not about supporting a thesis, padding an ego or shaming a work colleague. It’s about looking at a set of information and making a decision that is informed. It’s really that simple.
The outcome, on the other hand, is anything but simple; it’s extraordinary: the right decisions have the power to transform a patient’s course. Streamline operations. Pull teams together. Enhance communication. Make the day-to-day, of each day, easier.
This means that when Larry, a recovering drug addict in a treatment center in Illinois, is coming upon his 60- and 90-day milestones, his therapists can alter his treatment to be more aggressive to sidestep a relapse. It means that when a treatment center in Arizona needs to collect surveys about the service in the center, like satisfaction with the food, it’s easy to do and they know answers in days, not weeks. It means that when Mary, a counselor who is overwhelmed with too many patients, can quickly see on a chart that she’s been taking on 20% more cases than other therapists, so she can work with her manager to adjust her load. It means that when a patient is having yet another reaction to a medication, that there’s a record of every bad reaction, alerting everyone on his care team to his condition.
These scenarios aren’t far-fetched. They happen every day. And they’re made possible through data: easy access to it. Easy ways to understand it. And easy ways to share it.
It’s also better for business.
Data has more potential than just helping out in-house at treatment centers. It holds the key to extending a treatment center’s reach, because people who can pay for treatment are those who will get it. For the majority of Americans, that means relying on insurance to pay the bills.
Getting help from a treatment center is expensive–$30K+ a month expensive. It’s not uncommon to hear of families that take out mortgages, close out retirement accounts and go into massive debt to help their family members. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, more than 22% of admissions to substance abuse programs are for someone who has already been through treatment, and between 2012 and 2015, spending for substance abuse admissions rose 54%. These figures are for Americans who had employer coverage.
So, while spending skyrockets, health insurance companies are left to navigate an ocean of treatment facilities, many which have therapies that are not science-based. As costs only continue to increase, insurance companies are demanding data – yes, data! – that can show progress. In other words, before they cut a check, they want to see that treatment is working.
And so, in this way, data offers a two-fold benefit. First, it helps therapists make smarter decisions (leading to better treatment) and second, it helps those people who need that treatment to survive to be able to afford it. A win-win.
Data can save lives.
I know this, because data could have helped save my brother’s life. He struggled with addiction throughout his life. Our family thought he had a fairly good handle on it. He had been in and out of treatment centers and was a regular at support groups. But after he passed away in a tragic accident, I began to research treatment centers and how they monitor patient progress and track outcomes. Critical information – like relapse rates, for example – can give treatment providers straightforward clues about how to get in front of relapses.
This is why we founded Midway Analytics. I know there are people out there, like my brother, who need data to act as their siren when they need help.
It’s time to embrace data.
The industry is beginning to simmer with the demand for data. It’s coming at treatment centers from all angles. A way to improve service, take more patients, and take better care of patients.
No doubt, a cultural shift in the industry is intimidating. The answer lies in making data hit-over-the-head easy to deal with, no matter what a person’s background is. I’m proud to say that Midway Analytics delivers a friendly model that requires little, if any, training. All it does is allow treatment center personnel to explore data in ways that make it easy to understand. Our goal is to empower and enable every treatment center to embrace a culture of data.
Because lives are counting on it.
-Lewis E. Heuermann
Midway Analytics Founding Partner