(EDITOR'S NOTE: Over the next three days, Addiction Professional will post the profiles of the recipients of its Outstanding Clinical Care Awards. Our honorees also will be recognized Aug. 19 at our National Conference on Addiction Disorders in Baltimore.)
Central Kansas Foundation ACHESS Utilization and Integration Initiative
Location: Headquartered in Salina, Kan.
Target population: Rural-dwelling patients with smartphone access
Quote: “It is important to look to technology as an engagement tool,” says Central Kansas Foundation CEO Les Sperling.
For patients in early recovery who might have to travel nearly 100 miles to get to the nearest support meeting, the importance of maintaining connection grows exponentially. At Central Kansas Foundation, around half of the treatment organization's active patients have access to a smartphone app that offers consistent socialization with peers and as-needed contact with a program therapist.
CEO Les Sperling says there aren't really any demographic patterns in who wants to use the app. If a patient owns a smartphone, the idea becomes a pretty easy sell.
“This is fully integrated into our continuum of care,” says Sperling. “Our staff is responsible for meeting with clients, explaining it, and signing people up. Our peer-led recovery center, where no appointments are necessary, also spends a lot of time pushing this out.”
In what has proven to be an implementation advantage for Central Kansas Foundation, the organization was involved in design of the ACHESS instrument, (ACHESS stands for Addiction Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System). The organization was a participant in the original study of the app, a tool established at the University of Wisconsin. Giving patients broader access to technology also helps to reinforce the treatment organization's strategic goal of more closely integrating services with general medical care.
The app includes features such as a “sentinel button” that can allow a patient experiencing distress to reach out to a counselor or to peers. But Sperling says the opportunity simply to stay in touch appears to mean more to the participating patients.
“It's really the social connectiveness in the group,” says Sperling. “They use the group chats, taking advantage of the ability to connect with the peer group.”
The availability of the app helps the organization to demonstrate to its patients that it is constantly at their side, even when they are not in an intensive level of service or at an outpatient appointment. “Recovery is a daily adventure,” Sperling says.
Moreover, the research is demonstrating that ACHESS enrollees are attending outpatient sessions and completing treatment at higher rates than the rest of the treatment population, Sperling points out.
“Where this will really be important, is that as we negotiate different managed care arrangements, this will be seen as a value-added tool,” Sperling says.