With the ever-increasing number of children diagnosed with autism every year and more and more insurance companies paying for ABA services, behavioral health providers are reaching a critical moment in which the adoption of technology may be the only way forward. If organizations providing ABA services are to build sustainable business models and remain competitive, adopting technological solutions to assist with everything from data collection to other aspects of practice management is crucial.
Many behavioral health providers continue to rely upon outdated paper and pen formats that make their work unnecessarily laborious and ultimately unsustainable. According to recent research conducted by Dr. Joshua Pritchard at the Florida Institute of Technology, 80% of surveyed BACB certificant respondents still rely on paper and pen data collection, 61% of whom have never even tried a data collection app. Considering that as of January 2014, 90% of adults own a cell phone, and as of October 2014 64% own a smart phone, the adoption of technology amongst BCBAs seems drastically behind the times.
Because the adoption of new technology can require an investment of resources, it is crucial that providers become educated on the kinds of technologies available as well as potential returns on their investment so that they can make informed decisions about which technologies will best address their business needs.
Different types of digital systems
The digital systems and tools that are currently available address a variety of needs that behavioral health care providers face. The below, taken from a recent webinar conducted by Dr. Joshua Pritchard on behalf of Rethink Behavioral Health, are some of the options that are out there, with a few of the pros and cons of each.
Stand-alone Data Collection App
Stand-alone data collection apps are typically available for download on mobile devices and are perfect for on-the-fly data collection. They require minimal installation effort and can be inexpensive and easy to adopt. The major drawback is that data are stored on the devices themselves during collection, which can be risky if devices are lost or stolen. Additionally, stand-alone apps typically provide no option for historical data integration and also make it difficult to analyze organizational data, both of which are serious factors to consider when looking at issues related to HIPAA compliance and the potential benefit of reducing time related to graphing and reporting.
Cloud-based Data Collection App
Cloud-based data collection apps keep data safer than stand-alone apps by storing data in the cloud, rather than on a device. With data stored in the cloud, it also becomes much easier to share and supervise data within an organization. Aside from an increased expense as compared to stand-alone apps, cloud-based apps may be limiting as they sometimes require internet connection to work, although most now allow for offline collection with syncing when a network connection is available.
Data Collection System
The functionality of integrated data collection systems is definitely superior to stand-alone and cloud-based apps, allowing data management at an organizational level, providing integration across therapists, and ensuring uniformity in data collection. When adopting this kind of system, it is important to consider that they also entail an increase not only in cost, but in set-up time. Implementing a full-on data collection system as opposed to an app requires time for setting up clients and therapists and for importing historical data. Because they typically require back-end set up, they are also less flexible when it comes to on-the-fly adjustments when collecting live data.
Curriculum System (with included Data App)
Some newer technologies also include a curriculum system that integrates with data collection. These systems can be highly effective in providing a standardized curriculum that allows for powerful data analysis and within-organization comparisons. On-demand curriculum can also save providers the time and money that goes into program writing. While standardized curriculum can help ensure high-quality programming for all, it can potentially result in less flexibility in programmatic development and less individualized programs. Be sure to check if the system allows for individualization, editing of program, and custom content uploading.
Fully Integrated System (Data Collection, Curriculum, & Practice Management)
The most sophisticated technologies will integrate data collection, curriculum, and practice management/billing systems all into one. While many providers are using data collection systems and many have technologies for practice management/billing, very few technologies accommodate this kind of all-in-one integration. The benefits to this kind of system are many, one of the most valuable being that the process of using data to meet requirements for funding sources and reports that are due can be automated, in addition to all of the time-saving benefits. All-in-one systems can obviously be a more significant investment, requiring more time on set up, but this kind of approach can also potentially save providers significant amounts of time and money, and make everyone’s job easier.
So which digital system is for me?
To aid in your review of the different systems available, we have created a checklist that will help you know what factors to consider when deciding upon what data collection system is best for you. It also highlights some of the features of the new Rethink Behavioral Health platform, including our enhanced data collection system developed in collaboration with people like Dr. Joshua Pritchard (mentioned above) and other behavioral health professionals.
There are many important factors to consider when choosing the data collection system that best supports your organization’s needs. You need to think about everything from the number of clients and clinicians you serve and the ubiquity of the necessary hardware to more practical things like what you can afford and what will be scalable as your business grows. Whatever system you decide upon, remember that adopting new technology always requires an investment of both time and money, and while it may seem an expense you can’t afford or more hassle than it is worth, it is the only solution to making your business relevant and sustainable in the 21st century.
For more information on how Rethink’s new behavioral health platform can help you manage your practice, contact us!