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More Farmers Are Seeking Mental Health Help

As mental health awareness grows and organizations seek to reduce stigma, one historically overlooked group is getting more attention. Recent months have seen a growing number of farmers and other agricultural industry workers seeking help for mental and behavioral health issues.

Farming carries mental health risk factors

It’s no surprise that agriculture has long been a high-stress line of work. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farming is among the top 10 occupations that are at risk of higher suicide rates.

Factors that contribute to farmers’ stress include:

Social isolation
Fluctuating market prices
Unreliable weather
Diseases that affect crops or herds
Tariffs and other regulations

Many rural, agricultural communities also lack the resources to address farmers’ needs, creating additional challenges. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that 53.34 percent of rural areas had a shortage of mental health professionals.

Agricultural work traditionally comes with an attitude of self-sufficiency and a more stoic approach to adversity. As a result, many farmers suffer from mental and behavioral health struggles in silence.

Despite this attitude, a new national poll of rural residents found that 82 percent of farm workers reported that mental health is important to them and/or their family. Among farmers, 66 percent said it was important to reduce stigma about mental health in the agriculture community.

Awareness is growing and stigma is falling

Many states and organizations are working to address the increased demand for mental health services among farmers. Growing awareness of mental health has been encouraging more farmers to seek help for anxiety, depression, and other concerns.

The North Carolina Agromedicine Institute has begun to offer training for dealing with extreme farm stress, as well as teaching people about warning signs of suicide or depression. The institute is also seeking mental health clinicians and other resources to address the unique nature of farming. For example, many medications for depression and anxiety may not be suitable for individuals who work with heavy machinery.

The South Dakota Farm and Ranch Stress Summit in September, held by the South Dakota State University Extension Rural Behavioral Health Team and the South Dakota Counselors Association, gathered farmers and health specialists to discuss stress in rural settings. Organizers noted that more agricultural producers are speaking up about their stress and other mental health needs.

Technology could improve farmers’ health access

Several technology-based resources can help serve agricultural communities that otherwise lack mental health resources. Avera Health launched a free, confidential, 24-hour Farm and Rural Stress Hotline in January. On Twitter, many farmers open up about their burdens and encourage each other under the #AgTwitter hashtag.

Telehealth resources and mobile apps could also help expand behavioral health access and close treatment gaps in rural communities. SilverCloud, a digital platform provided by OSF Healthcare, is becoming popular with farmers within the OSF network to help them cope with mental health challenges.

Serve patients better, wherever you are

BestNotes EHR solutions help you streamline your services and improve patient care. Measure and track outcomes, order prescriptions, and bill more easily. Contact us today to learn more, ask questions, or schedule a free demo!

date:  Oct 16, 2019
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What is Exposure Therapy and How is it Used in Behavioral Health?

Behavioral health and addiction treatment providers know that different therapies help different conditions and populations. The BestNotes blog has been looking at some common therapy approaches used in a behavioral health or addiction treatment practice.

What is exposure therapy?
Exposure therapy (ET) can be used to help people confront and even overcome their fears. Trying to avoid things a person is afraid of can actually make those fears worse over time.

A clinician may recommend ET to help a patient break this pattern. The therapist creates a safe environment in which the patient faces the things that they have come to fear and avoid. Over time, this exposure can reduce that fear and avoidance.

What should happen during exposure therapy?
According to the American Psychological Association, patients can experience ET in a variety of ways. The specific approach depends on the disorder, symptoms, and fears involved. The different strategies include:

In vivo exposure involves a person directly facing their fear in real life, such as a person with a fear of spiders being in the same room as a living tarantula. While this may be useful for tangible objects, it is less practical for situations like combat-related PTSD.
Imaginal exposure involves the patient vividly imagining their feared object or situation. A person with PTSD may be prompted to remember and describe a traumatic experience.
Virtual reality (VR) exposure uses VR technology to recreate feared sensations or situations, such as a person with a fear of flying using VR technology to simulate an airplane flight.
Interoceptive exposure deliberately creates physical sensations of fear. For example, a person with panic disorder may be afraid of feeling their heart rate increase. He or she might be instructed to exercise to increase their heart rate, and learn not to fear the sensation itself.

Individuals may also face their fears in different degrees.

With graded exposure, the patient may list their fears from easiest to most difficult to face, and then begin ET with the easier fears.
Flooding takes the opposite approach, and starts ET with the most difficult fear to face.
Systemic desensitization combines exposure to the fear with relaxation exercises to help the fears feel more manageable.

Does exposure therapy really work?

ET can be used for a variety of behavioral and mental health issues related to fear, anxiety, and trauma. These include:

Panic disorder
Social anxiety disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Generalized anxiety disorder

Studies have repeatedly found that ET can effectively reduce symptoms of these disorders. In fact, exposure-based therapy is sometimes recommended as a first-line treatment for many anxiety disorders.

Studies have shown that ET, either alone or combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, is effective for all anxiety disorders, but especially for generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD.

Improve the way you deliver therapies to your patients
Treatment and management techniques for behavioral health conditions can be complicated. Whether your patients receive ET or other types of therapy, the right EHR solution can help you and your patients set and achieve goals.

BestNotes EHR software was designed with you, your practice, and your clients in mind. Track patient progress, coordinate care with other specialists, and create all the documents you need with one optimal solution. Contact us today to learn more or request a live demo.

date:  Oct 14, 2019
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How to Quickly Prepare to Adapt to Changing State and Federal Standards

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes, and bracing for even more. Many of these changes are led by technology, such as EHRs and artificial intelligence. This new technology often leads to changes in industry and regulatory standards.

Ongoing issues, such as rising healthcare costs and the national opioid crisis, are also prompting their own changes, such as Medicare expansion and electronic prescribing requirements.

Major changes brought on by changing state and federal standards can be overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers. So how do you do it? Here are some general tips to help keep you from falling behind.

1. Keep up with best practices.
It’s easier to respond quickly and effectively to new regulatory standards if you are already following industry best practices, even when they are not mandated by a governing body.

Many state or federal regulatory changes are influenced by organizations that help create and promote best practices, such as standards set forth by accreditation organizations. By joining an industry association or accreditation organization, such as CARF, or even just following their recommendations, your organization can be better prepared to follow new mandates when they take effect.

BestNotes make this easy with ready to use documentation that automatically updates to keep up to date with standards.

2. Create a culture of change
Employees are often resistant to change, and for good reason: it can be disruptive and distracting. Frequent changes can reduce employee engagement, which can negatively affect teamwork and productivity, and even increase errors.

Healthcare providers and organizations can help create a culture of change and adaptation. Make sure that change and resiliency is part of your organization’s mission and values. For example, a mission to provide the best patient care should include willingness to change if the change will improve patient care.

Demonstrate to your employees the benefits of a more adaptive, innovative culture. Seek employee feedback and address their concerns. Make sure employees know they are valued team members, and give them room to make mistakes as they adjust to changes.

3. Engage with third parties.
Regulatory changes that impact behavioral health or addiction treatment providers are likely to affect third-party partners, so make sure your vendors and other business partners are also prepared for regulatory changes.

Ask vendors about any industry or regulatory standards that may affect them and how they are preparing for any upcoming changes. Ask them about the standards and best practices they currently follow, and whether they are members of any accreditation organizations or other industry associations. Such membership demonstrates a dedication to uphold standards within their industry.

For example, BestNotes is a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), which is committed to providing advocacy, training, and other support to maintain the “highest quality of addiction treatment.” BestNotes is also a member of the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA), which aims to accelerate health information and technology, promote interoperability, and improve healthcare quality through EHR use.

Stay up-to-date and ahead of the curve with your behavioral health EHR

BestNotes EHR and CRM solutions were designed with the behavioral health and addiction treatment provider in mind.

BestNotes’ many features offer peace of mind for both providers and patients, allowing you to provide better care and streamline your office operations. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a free demo.

date:  Oct 04, 2019
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North Carolina Addiction and Treatment News Roundup: September 2019

What kind of addiction issues is North Carolina dealing with, and how are they addressing it? Here is a roundup of some of the latest addiction news making headlines around the state.

Opioid Overdoses Declining in North Carolina

For the first time in 5 years, North Carolina is seeing fewer unintentional deaths from opioid overdose. According to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, the rate declined by 5 percent in 2018, after increasing 34 percent in 2017. There has also been a decline in opioid prescriptions in North Carolina from 2017 to 2019.

Some of the reasons credited for the decline include programs and laws issued under the state’s 2017 Opioid Action Plan. In July 2019, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law the Opioid Epidemic Response Act, which decriminalized the possession of controlled substance testing strips. The health department also partnered with the North Carolina Attorney General’s office to conduct a public awareness campaign, and launched a pilot program to help treat addiction in people recently released from prison.

State Bill Would Remove Parental Rights Faster for Drug Abuse

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering a bill that would shorten the amount of time before a child of parents using illegal substances is eligible for adoption. Under a provision of House Bill 918, the process of “termination of parental rights” could be shortened to nine months.

Under the proposed bill, a judge would have to deem the mother “unable to discharge parental responsibilities due to a history of chronic drug abuse.” To remove the child from parental custody, the bill would also require that a “licensed health care provider with substance abuse disorders experience” assess the situation and determine that the mother would keep using drugs “for a prolonged or indeterminate period.”

North Carolina currently has about 11,000 children in the state’s child welfare system, a number that has risen with increased substance misuse. Of significant concern is scientific evidence that bonding with parental figures in early childhood is vital for a child’s neurological development. The trauma of having parents with substance abuse and living within the welfare system, can create many psychological and physical challenges for children.

North Carolina Will File Suits Against Eight E-Cigarette Companies

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced in August that his office plans to file lawsuits against eight companies that sell vaping products. The Attorney General’s office has accused these companies of marketing and selling products to children, which is prohibited under state law, since most of these products still contain nicotine.

The office has already filed a similar lawsuit against the e-cigarette company Juul. E-cigarette supporters say that their products help reduce traditional cigarette smoking. Critics point out that vaping products, especially those that offer flavors like cotton candy or bubble gum, may appeal to children who never tried smoking before.

Are you a behavioral health or addiction treatment provider in North Carolina?

BestNotes EHR solutions help you streamline your services and improve patient care. Measure and track outcomes, order prescriptions, and bill more easily. Contact us today to learn more, ask questions, or schedule a free demo!

date:  Sep 26, 2019
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Could Artificial Intelligence Supplement EHR Systems?

There’s no doubt that there are many advantages to electronic health records (EHRs). They can help providers get the most accurate information about patients, securely share health data, improve documentation, reduce medical errors, and improve prescribing.

Unfortunately, this handy technology has also seen its share of complaints. For example, EHRs help create enormous volumes of data, but providers are not always sure how to use, or even search, all that data. This can create frustration for providers and reduce the amount of time they spend with patients.

Now, experts are suggesting that combining EHRs with another emerging health technology, artificial intelligence (AI), could help solve some of the persistent issues with EHRs.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare?

In a previous blog post about AI, we noted that the term usually refers to computers and software that can imitate “intelligent” functions that are traditionally human, such as learning and problem solving. In healthcare, AI is usually used to analyze complicated data and reach conclusions without a human’s direct input.

One example of the practical use of AI is the increasingly popular virtual assistant (VA), such as the Siri or Alexa applications. These VAs can understand voice commands and complete tasks or perform calculations for the user.

When used with AI, a VA can “learn” the user’s habits or preferences over time to become even more useful and accurate. They may be able to understand natural language and exchange information with other smart devices and software.

How can AI help with EHRs?

Some AI developers are working to create intelligent EHR systems with built-in VAs. Ideally, these VAs would be able to perform background information gathering and analysis to make the patient data stored in EHRs more meaningful for providers.

An AI-using VA could search through the large amount of EHR data to find the most important information for the situation. AI systems can learn to recognize key terms and pull out data from clinical notes and other patient data. This can help clinicians get a more accurate picture of their patient’s health, diagnose and treat more accurately, and better prepare for an appointment.

Using a VA with the EHR could also help with more administrative tasks. With the integration of AI, clinicians could use a VA to make phone calls, place prescription orders, take notes, and better navigate the overall EHR. This can help support staff perform their tasks faster and more effectively. It could also use natural language processing to help providers capture notes, which may help them spend more time and attention on patients, not keyboards and screens,

At Yale New Haven Health, clinicians have seen great success from incorporating a VA, in the form of a digital scribe, into their EHR system. With voice recognition, the VA can assist with taking notes and pulling up patient information. This has helped providers devote more time to patient care and less on clinical documentation.

Stay up-to-date with your behavioral health EHR

BestNotes EHR and CRM solutions were designed with the behavioral health and addiction treatment provider in mind. BestNotes’ many features offer peace of mind for both providers and patients, allowing you to provide better care and streamline your office operations. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a free demo.

date:  Sep 20, 2019
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