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  • Ginger Bandeen, LCSW

Using Data to Improve Behavioral Health Still Matters

  • Yes, even now, in the midst of a pandemic.

  • In fact, maybe especially now, when we don't know what the future holds.

  • Because it doesn't have to be fancy or even perfect. We just need to get started!


Every day, I talk to people in the behavioral health system who are going above and beyond to make sure that services aren't cut off by this pandemic.

They're digging through boxes to find webcams for tele-health.

They're calling every client they saw in the past year to make sure everything is okay and to offer services, letting people know they're still available.

They're sewing masks while listening to webinars explaining policy changes, and homeschooling while responding to EHR help desk tickets.

I am so grateful for everyone serving our communities, making sure urgent and immediate needs are met.

And, once those immediate things are in place and we have a few seconds to breathe, there will be important work still left to do - the unfinished work that was there before the pandemic.

Let's be honest. The crisis in our behavioral health system started long before this pandemic. We've been struggling with limited resources, growing demand, and a workforce shortage for a while. And we can't afford to ignore those issues, especially now.

Using data to improve services, expand access, increase engagement, measure outcomes, and demonstrate the value of our services is going to be even more important in the aftermath of this pandemic.

We're going to be facing some big challenges, for the foreseeable future. It will take all of our smarts, our compassion, and our creativity to weather this storm, and for our system to emerge stronger on the other side.

We won't be able to tell how things are going by walking through the waiting room, at least for a while. And we might not see trends in hospitalizations because people might be afraid to go to the hospital.

Instead, we'll have to use our EHR data to help us understand what's going on, to get a picture of what needs are out there, to plan our response, and to keep track of our progress.

We don't have to figure everything out all at once. We just can't afford to wait forever.

We can take care of the urgent and immediate needs first, and we can take a minute to adapt to this new reality. We're all human and taking care of ourselves is also important.

And, once we're ready, we can start with easy, simple data tools. We can look at data that matters to us, and we can work together instead of re-inventing the wheel over and over again.

Data analysis can literally be rocket science, but it doesn't have to be! It can be as simple as asking a question about your services and making a bar chart of your data to answer it.

A thriving, responsive behavioral health system has always been important, and we're going to need it even more as the emotional and economic toll of this global crisis unfolds.

So, whenever you're ready, let's find our team and get to work!

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