Monday, December 24th, 2018 at 12:05am

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) alcohol poisoning kills six people daily! The group with the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people is American Indians and Alaska Natives – 49.1 per 1 million. More than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol-use disorder in the United States, but less than eight percent of receive treatment.

Treating addiction is not a simple process. The common 90-day detox programs work if you have thousands of beds, staff and funds. The actual treatment behind the addiction is also lacking. It’s a time-consuming process requiring individual diagnosis, driven by PDFs, and trial and error.

Meanwhile synthetic drug addictions are catching up with, if not surpassing, alcoholism. Last year 104 people died from drug and alcohol abuse in McKinley County while the state suffered 1,952 deaths, the 13th highest in the U.S.

One of the state’s epicenters of addiction is Gallup where 22,000 addicts await a behavioral health care fix. Behavioral health does not receive the same level of attention as physical health, despite mental, behavioral and physical health being inextricably linked, as the World Health Organization notes. At New Mexico’s 59 hospitals, behavioral health services operate on and are updated with paper records, leaving challenges around efficiency, communication and the ability to scale treatment.

Physical health issues can require visits to a primary care physician, specialists and possibly x-ray technicians along with the corresponding paper records. Treatment of behavioral health is more complex. Before checking into a behavioral health center, a substance abuse patient needs a physical and mental exam. An intake coordinator begins that process, the patient sees a nurse, then a counselor. But the patient also has depression and needs to see a psychiatrist before visiting the detox center. Chances are they also have social problems to worry about such as child support, perhaps a bankruptcy case or a jail sentence.

Behavioral treatment centers may also have operational differences such as the number of treatment phases and the ability to track, monitor and anticipate recidivism. There are also differing manual processes and documentation tracking, job training and aftercare phase along with monitoring, tracking, reporting and progress improvement or non-progress on treatment programs.

However, this phase is cumbersome due to the lack of an electronic recording system for behavioral health as most records are stored as PDFs in EHR systems. There is also lack of support to track progress or non-progress on patient outcomes. There are also additional data categories such as chemical dependency assessment, a treatment plan, social service related data, a training program and related data and mental health assessments.

When considering all this additional data versus data requirements for physical care, it seems like a process that is almost designed to be slow and cumbersome. If the parameters of treatment can’t be changed to accommodate the surge in addicts, the other consideration is the treatment process itself.

To treat the addicts in need of care, RMCHCS is implementing an app from Zoeticx that monitors and tracks patient’s behavioral health, overcoming these traditional barriers. The preventative app monitors the healthcare needs of those suffering from addiction, dementia and other behavioral health diseases using mobile devices generating topic-based reports that can quickly be compiled. Providers can track, identify and manage behavioral health by symptoms, ethnicity, substances and other data points. This capability can also identify patient symptom commonalities, facilitating patient treatment and avoid resource consuming individual patient research.

Collaboration among care providers and patients are critical for successful treatment outcomes. The current paper record approach limits collaboration and efficiency of the BHS treatment center operation. Join me in making 2019 the year of the highest rates of addiction treatment success!

Conejo is also CEO of the New Mexico Rural Hospital Association and a New Mexico Hospital Association board member.

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