Treatment Plans - A Truly Collaborative Approach to Healthcare

When we think about many of the tools used by health care providers today, such as clinical and progress notes, much of them are a one-way analysis in which a patient never (or barely) gets to view, verify information or provide consensus on the information provided to ensure that it is in line with their goals. However, a treatment plan is another tool often used for the treatment of behavioral health issues, and one that shines because it drives true collaboration between a patient and their mental health provider.

I’m not here to give the other tools a bad rap, but how many times have we been to our primary care doctor with a specific ailment and left the office with a verbal list of goals and objectives to achieve for the next visit that was delivered by our doctor? Who can fully remember what was said? That is why treatment plans are so pivotal to driving positive change in healthcare, particularly when used with mental and behavioral health patients.

Together, alongside their provider(s), patients can be a part of creating the goals, objectives, interventions and outcomes they are looking for. In this case, patients have a sense of immediate ‘buy-in’ to their treatment and are more likely to actively partake in the steps required as they were a part of building those steps. Treatment plans truly allow for the adherence to a more successful clinical outcome. According to a study conducted by the University of Montana, there is a 90% success rate for individuals with a specific set of goals leading to improved performance when compared to individuals with ‘do your best’ or no goals.

What Are Mental Health Treatment Plans?

These plans typically highlight important assessment information, define areas of concern and establish concrete goals for treatment. They are classically used by psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, therapists, nursing teams and social workers in most levels of care. Here are some important elements that make up solid, yet actionable treatment plans:

1. Patient Demographic Info - basic demographic information, psychosocial history, onset of symptoms and family histories.
2. Provider Diagnosis – may be one or multiple diagnoses and may also include past diagnoses.
3. Treatment Goals – the building blocks of a treatment plan; they are unique and tailored specifically to the patient seeking treatment. Oftentimes they include a metric of some sort, like a percentage or rating scale that helps tie into how patient progress will be tracked.
4. Measurable Objectives – the small, achievable steps that outline how the patient will get to the larger goals.
5. Interventions – techniques the provider will implement to assist the patient in gaining goal achievements (i.e. medications, talk therapy, breathing exercises, etc.)
6. Timelines to Treatment – target dates to completing each goal is included to help the patient adhere to the program and the provider to continually provide updates to the plan.
7. Frequency - how often the patient needs to engage with the provider for optimal success.
8. Signatures – provides a two-way street for plan adherence from both the provider and the patient. Capturing signatures not only solidifies the collaboration between provider and patient but provides evidence insurance reimbursement requirements.
9. Patient Progress Tracking – providers have a way to capture and update patient’s progress each step of the way.

When Are Treatment Plans Created?

It’s important to note that these plans typically aren’t developed until after a provider has met with a patient at least once and are usually outlined during the 2nd or 3rd patient visit. A patient will first undergo an initial evaluation to understand why they are seeking treatment. During this visit or subsequent visit, a provider may conduct a deeper evaluation to gather the entire medical history of the patient and may perform a mini-mental-status exam (MMSE), which involves observation – looking at the patient’s overall physical appearance in addition to how they interact with the provider and/or those around them. From there, a provider can make an initial diagnosis(es) that can then be shared with the patient. Then the collaboration can begin with outlining potential goals and objectives for treatment!

How Kareo Treatment Plans Drive Mental Health Practice Collaboration

Kareo’s latest addition to its growing portfolio of mental health features include digital treatment plans. This addition not only improves overall practice synchronization with patients, but it also supports clinical decision-making, giving providers and their teams the plans that help guide patients towards their goals and assists them in monitoring progress to adjust the treatment plans as necessary. The best part is that it’s modular – add as many goals, objectives and interventions that you want – hand in hand alongside your patient.

With no limitations on how a treatment plan can be structured, it’s offers a way for practices to build a unique experience for each patient digitally. Upon completion of the treatment plan, it can easily be signed by your patient (and other signatories as needed) digitally during an in-office visit or emailed securely following remote visits in which it can then be printed, signed and returned to the practice. Easily referenced within the patient’s chart, a treatment plan provides a platform for providers to deliver timely changes and updates to the plan, which helps overall practice compliance. Since this is a collaborative process, it makes patients feel calm and assured that they have selected the best provider to work with.

Being a part of developing a customized treatment specifically for themselves, allows patients to have a voice in the goals and objectives that outline each step of their program. Oftentimes, simply being a part of a process makes people more likely to adhere to objectives that satisfy a goal (like working alongside a motivating personal trainer rather than copying a diet program from a manual) and are more likely to stay on track. That’s a win-win for the practice and the patient. Additionally, practices are more likely to see reimbursement from insurance providers in some cases, as treatment plans show proof that treatment was provided and that both parties participated in the process via signatures.

Stop Throwing Away Money

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, untreated mental illness costs the United States approximately $300 billion in loss of productivity. Without treatment, the consequences are staggering for both individuals and our society. Driving this astounding cost is the domino effect that stems from lack of or improper treatment, which includes things like unnecessary disability, unemployment, inappropriate incarceration and more. Early identification and treatment are of vital importance; by getting people the treatment they need as early as possible - recovery is accelerated and the brain is protected from further harm related to the course of illness.

As we continue to break the stigma surrounding mental health, continue to hear from advocates, and make it more accessible through insurance, items like treatment plans become critical to driving down overall costs and ensure that both individuals and our society can continue to function in harmony.

If you are a mental health provider and interested in how Kareo can help your practice use technology to save time on your workflow, while getting paid faster and providing a superior patient experience, visit our mental health page here. For a copy of our newest guide on how to modernize your mental health clinic with technology, click here.

About the Author

Emily Pathmajeyan is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Kareo.  She has over 10 year’s of experience in Strategic Marketing and Product Management, and is...

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