Tackling Addictions Through Health Tech

Timon LeDain | September 9, 2021 | 3 Min Read

In this Q&A with Macadamian’s VP of Customer Solutions, we look at how health tech is helping with issues around addictions.

The opioid crisis is an ongoing healthcare challenge across North America. Macadamian VP of Customer Solutions, Timon LeDain, explains how health tech is helping tackle this and other addiction-related issues.

Macadamian: There is one tool out there that is helping with drug and substance addictions, and that is the RAAM clinic. What is the RAAM clinic?

LeDain: The Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic offers services for people who may have concerns about their alcohol and/or opioid use. RAAM staff review treatment goals, provide individual counselling, mental health services, medication (if needed) for opioid and/or alcohol problems, and connect people with resources that best fit their needs.

Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) has proven itself to improve outcomes and reduce opioid- and alcohol-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Macadamian: Why is it beneficial for patients when these clinics go virtual?

LeDain: Developing a virtual solution to be able to deliver the same care remotely only improves access to this much needed care.

Going virtual means so much more than the video meeting with clinicians. It is about increasing access to resources to make them easier to locate for individuals who need them. It streamlines the process of determining whether someone is eligible for the services and also supports collecting key performance indicators to be able to continually improve on the services being delivered.

Macadamian: What has the pandemic done to make it worse for those dealing with drug- and alcohol-related addictions?

LeDain: At a high level, the pandemic has restricted access to medical care for those dealing with drug and alcohol related addictions, but big picture, we all have had to manage with additional stressors relating to the lockdowns, remote work, supporting children with their distance learning, etcetera. As a result, it has been particularly hard for people suffering from substance abuse challenges and the statistics have proven this out.  The rate of opioid related overdoses rose significantly in the months following the declaration of the state of emergency.

Macadamian: How is Macadamian using tech to tackle the issue of addictions.

LeDain: Macadamian has been developing digital healthcare solutions for over a decade and understands how to address the challenges relating to access to care.  Macadamian developed the backend for the first broadband enabled telehealth solution in 2004 that was acquired by Intel in 2006 as part of their Care Innovations JV with GE.  So improving access to care is definitely part of our corporate DNA.

We also have a team specializing in behavior-change science that is being applied to support patient self care in a number of different areas. We are working on opportunities that leverage our expertise in these areas with the latest in cloud-first solutions, and in advanced voice-based virtual assistants to develop solutions in the digital therapeutic space that will help to further increase access to care.

In the case of the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, they had optimized their RAAM clinic to provide in-person treatment to clients meeting with their care team.  We leveraged our design-led engineering approach and user experience design knowledge to transform their current workflows into a “digital front door” experience that allowed the same services to be delivered remotely over the internet on both desktop and mobile devices.

Macadamian: About that, amid the digital transformation we’re seeing in the healthcare industry, we’re hearing more about digital front doors. What is a digital front door?

LeDain: If you remember what travel was like before the pandemic, you could check-in for a flight, scan your passport, and get updates on when your flight was about to depart, entirely from your smartphone.  Have you ever experienced anything similar when you last had to check into a hospital?

Providers have not embraced mobile and digital workflows in any significant way.  The concept of a “digital front door” is to provide a digital welcome experience for healthcare providers via a web or mobile experience that allows an individual to determine eligibility for services and check-in for those services entirely remotely on the device of their choice.

Macadamian: How important is it to consider a digital front door strategy when tackling issues around addiction?

LeDain: Addiction issues are not dissimilar to other healthcare challenges in that improving access to healthcare services will naturally result in better outcomes.  People suffering from addiction live across our country in both urban and rural areas.  We don’t have an infinite supply of clinicians who can support these individuals, so the idea of a digital front door can remove the geographic barriers and deliver care to clients wherever they are.

Imagine a specialist waiting in their clinic for a walk-in patient with an empty waiting room, meanwhile, in the town next door, there is a packed waiting room and over 60-minute wait, while in the region up north, they don’t even have a clinic within a half day’s drive.  A virtual front door solution can pool the clinical team and support a larger geographic region to optimize for these challenges.  People can connect from their homes or wherever they happen to be, while the clinical team can meet with the people most in need and no clinician is idle when they can simply support the next individual in this virtual queue.

Macadamian: In addition to creating greater accessibility, what other benefits are there when we transition a RAAM clinic to a virtual environment?

LeDain: Our digital front door solutions built on our HealthConnect Platform are highly instrumented, which means that we are capturing various key performance metrics that can be reviewed so that the system can be improved over time. Our client application includes a simple satisfaction survey at the end of the virtual visit that can deliver information on the benefits you are providing to the people in need.  We even provide average waiting times and can start to coordinate between different virtual RAAM clinics so that a client can find the one with the shortest wait times and check themselves into that one.

This level of operational insights is often lacking in the face-to-face operations within providers, and certainly not shared across different providers to optimize the healthcare system as a whole.

The outcomes data that is able to be collected provides insights into operating efficiencies previously unheard of, which is what makes these solutions of particular interest to provincial health authorities and large provider networks looking to improve access to care while managing costs.

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