One of the principles of behavioral health recovery management is the application of new technology to the work being done for addiction treatment and ongoing recovery support. In some ways this comes as no surprise. After all, what we now think of as “treatment as usual” contains approaches that originally were groundbreaking or innovative.
At Pavillon in North Carolina, we have intentionally added a technological component to treatment in a planned way, and are purposefully evolving its use over time. The tool we use is the iPad. We implemented use of iPads in our residential treatment program in the fall of 2012 as an included part of the treatment cost.
We knew it was time to add a technology solution to certain aspects of clinical programming. And we knew this was the best way to ensure that we are providing a consistent, efficient and accessible set of materials where both the person and the program are concerned.
Many of us are familiar with the use of paper materials for patients in addiction treatment settings. We all have used orientation handbooks and paper handouts for patients to keep. Many people in treatment are encouraged to begin journaling, to complete certain writing assignments, and to record lists around a self-inventory on a variety of topics. When we offer an interactive class or group on a specific topic, we provide additional handouts, and often many people spontaneously start taking notes.
Would it be helpful to the person in treatment if:
· The treatment program organized these materials in an easy-access format?
· The person in treatment could easily keep and find treatment- and recovery-related materials without getting them scattered or easily misplaced?
· All patient education handouts, program information, and other paper materials were kept current and updated for everyone simultaneously with a simple push of a button?
The answer is “yes,” especially compared to:
· People in treatment trying to find a set of notes or a handout from a group, lecture or consultation that might have happened days or weeks ago.
· Family members who would like an easier way to review materials from the treatment program that were given to and used by their loved one while in treatment.
· Program administrators or other staff members attempting to update a single page or portion of a program handbook, or trying to find, destroy and replace signs or other informational handouts.
Aside from the uses discussed above, we also provide materials in a video format or audio format within the iPads, depending on the purpose.
Stays in use post-treatment
We have extended the usefulness of the iPad by having people who complete our program receive staff approval to keep their iPad for their personal use after they leave the residential setting. This allows people to review their treatment- and recovery-related materials even after their exit from the treatment program.
Going further, all the iPads of current and former patients update anytime new tools are added to the iPad. This allows the usefulness of the iPad to grow over time. Nearly all of our development has been “in-house,” keeping our implementation expenses low.
One example of growth opportunities involves outcome follow-up. We have shifted our outbound follow-up calls from a data collection event (which feels like an assessment) to a recovery management check-up with a staff member (which feels like recovery support). We are exploring use of the iPads in this area of each person’s ongoing relationship with our alumni department after completing our program. Currently, each person has a specific recovery-support “app” added to the iPad just before exiting our residential program. This app is focused on recovery management and recovery support over the long term.
As expected, patients in treatment have helped us best in thinking of new ways to use this tool for their treatment and recovery. We have retained our standard patient handbook binders and paper handouts for those individuals not able to use an iPad. But we have found much value for treatment and recovery by presenting a clear and easy-to-find set of tools both during and after the residential treatment experience.
Brian Coon is Director of Clinical Program Services at Pavillon in Mill Spring, N.C. He is a licensed clinical addictions specialist with more than 25 years of experience in addressing co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders in roles ranging from clinician to clinical supervisor and manager of multiple treatment programs. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.