Patients who have been hospitalized for a behavioral health incident, such as a substance overdose or a psychiatric episode, are highly vulnerable in the first few weeks or months after discharge. Behavioral health and addiction treatment can be frightening and isolating for many clients, especially after hospitalization or other inpatient stay.
During this period, your behavioral health client is at increased risk of relapse and even suicide. Therefore, it is critical for behavioral health practices to establish a follow-up plan for each client after discharge.
The Importance of Follow Up
Follow-up care is strongly recommended for addiction treatment and other behavioral health incidents. Research shows that 40 percent to 60 percent of individuals who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction relapse. Long-term follow-up care is one method that has helped reduce relapse risk.
Appropriate follow up after discharge is also important for clients who are at risk of suicidal behavior. Research shows that 26 percent of all suicidal acts happened within the first month after discharge, and more than 40 percent within the first three months.
Research also indicates that when follow-up treatment is poorly integrated into a client’s psychiatric care, it could lead to lower-quality treatment, and thus worse outcomes.
Caring Letters in Follow Up
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, researchers working with psychiatrist Dr. Jerry Motto, of the University of California, San Francisco, sent “caring letters” to individuals who had been hospitalized for suicide and depression. These discharged patients had refused follow-up care.
The caring letters included simple notes expressing interest and concern. The letters did not demand a response, such as making a follow-up appointment, but did invite recipients to reply, if desired.
In the first two years after hospital discharge, the average suicide rate of the “caring letter” recipients was about half of those who did not receive a letter. These letters may have helped the recipients feel more connected to others just by letting them know that someone cared.
Creating a Follow Up Protocol
Behavioral health organizations and providers can integrate follow up in numerous ways, ranging from the simple to the complex. These include:
Notes and caring letters
The chosen methods should be integrated into an overall, structured, consistent follow-up protocol, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Behavioral health providers should obtain client consent for follow-up early in their care and make sure that each client understands the follow-up service.
Discharge follow-up plans should include:
Thorough documentation, including all suicide risk assessments, management plans, consultations, and all actions that occurred as part of follow-up, including any caring letters, texts, phone calls, or home visits
Information from admitting facilities
Assessing for continued suicide or relapse risk
Focusing on medication adherence, if applicable
Culturally appropriate interventions to help reduce outcome disparities among racial minority groups
BestNotes EHR solutions allow users to save form letters for follow-ups, as well as send questionnaires for progress monitoring. This not only helps you reach out to individual clients, but can also help improve client outcomes, and better track data for reporting.
The right EHR system is vital for accurate documentation and thorough follow-up of behavioral health and addiction treatment discharges. Contact BestNotes today to learn more about our customizable options.