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John Makohen

By: John Makohen on March 4th, 2020

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6 Questions To Ask When Implementing Web-Based Addiction Recovery Services

Healthcare Advice | Value-Based Care

In recent years, there has been a significant shift by many, both older and younger, to monitor their health and well being.  The growing Sober Curious movement adds proof that the relationship with alcohol and other substances has changed. Some might even come to question if they have a substance use disorder, especially when they can’t seem to not drink at a sober event.

As these individuals become more focused on their substance use, they will expect agencies to provide web-based services and opportunities for care when needed, a growing trend in the behavioral health market. 

This trend in the behavioral health marketplace removes these barriers and could prevent a person’s substance use disorder from escalating to dangerous episodes of use.

Signs of this are everywhere. A growing number of websites provide telehealth, screening for mental health disorders, referral information, appointment registration, continuing care, peer support, and goal-based applications to improve the quality of life. 

The current digital landscape includes: 

  • Therapists and psychologists offering free initial consultations via LinkedIn or Instagram
  • Mastermind coaching calls delivered via Zoom, Skype, or Go to Meeting services
  • Telepsychiatry 
  • Self-study/help courses that range in myriad behavioral health topics 

Julie Miller, Editor in Chief for Behavioral Health Executive writes, 

"Health IT is more than just using an EHR to document care.…Other IT must-haves will include telehealth and digital platforms to expand the reach of clinical teams in shortage areas and to cater to consumers who are looking for convenience. Apps and online interfaces will serve to maintain engagement between outpatient visits while also serving as tools to track outcomes more regularly."

This quote showcases the value web-based services can provide for addiction recovery. In this article, we will discuss the six most important questions you should be asking when considering the implementation of these services into your practice. 

1. What strategy will you build around your web-based addiction recovery services?

Web-based services reach a larger audience, generate leads, and expand your census of clients enrolled for in-person services. 

Before you jump in and start launching, develop a strategy to help you focus on the best possible outcomes for both your target audience and your practice. 

Preparation is vital to your launch into web-based services, and you will want to first develop a digital content strategy. 

In starting your preparation, schedule a strategy session with your team to discuss launching these recovery services. 

During the team strategy session, brainstorm the reasons why you should start creating web-based addiction recovery services for online communities. This should go further than just the bottom-line value they can provide by considering the impact it can have on the families and communities being impacted. 

The process should not stop there, however. The end goal of the strategy session should be to come up with all possible solutions and avenues for you to offer your patients. 

Not every patient will respond the same way to each piece of content, so having variety is crucial to accommodate the needs of each individual. 

Consider the creation of different resources such as E-Books, webinars, articles, interactive activities, and other downloadable content that users could benefit from.

The more options you are able to come up with in this session, the easier it will be down the road to provide viable solutions for those using your addiction recovery services. 

2. How will web-based addiction recovery services help clients alleviate pain and suffering caused by a substance use disorder?

Substance use disorder services engage users with your addiction recovery treatment program. Consider hosting weekly chats, live sessions, or webinars that address and answer questions surrounding substance use disorders to engage clients with your services. 

Topics for discussion can include: 

  • Do I need substance use treatment? 
  • What is an addiction? 
  • Is my substance use disorder related to depression? 
  • What is client-centered treatment? 

When a clinician enters a live chat session to answer common questions concerning substance use disorders, participants in the discussion do not exchange convenience or anonymity to learn the answers to their questions.  

In a substance abuse study done in 2016, it was found that out of 152 participants who took part in virtual or in-person peer support groups, 130 (~86%) reported not using alcohol or drugs in the past 30 days during their 6 month follow-up. 

Further, 92% found the additional materials they were offered helpful during the recovery process. 

This can include the e-books and articles discussed above as well as the discussion groups and webinars. 

3. How can you efficiently and effectively repurpose in-house services for web-based client-centered services? 

People don’t like to walk through the door of your treatment facility and admit that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. 

Even though the concept and disease model invalidated the notion that addiction is an issue of moral failure or lack of willpower, self-stigma creates fear and a sense of low self-worth. 

Removing the barrier of waiting in a substance use treatment facility to schedule an appointment for screening or assessment alleviates the unwanted feelings and emotions which surface. Employing web-based health services helps new clients engage with your services anonymously. 

Administrative services for scheduling, prescriptions, or outside referral requests remove barriers that previously could have kept participants from engaging with treatment.

When you create a welcoming online environment for your target population to engage with, you remove the early barriers to treatment. You can repurpose most in-house services to your online arena by facilitating groups and one-on-one meetings, subscriptions to courses, and other forms of distributed content. 

If you add another layer of research to the target audience, you can learn what types of digital communication and education works best for different audiences. 

4. How can you design these services for a seamless educational and therapeutic user experience?

As you move your office-based services to the digital world-at-large, you’ll need an efficient and effective agency-wide system patient portal or dashboard to handle demands. 

The addiction recovery trend shows in-house services such as scheduling, screening, assessment, insurance verification, and email correspondence have shifted to web-based patient portals. 

Your patient portal needs to offer a seamless interface with EHR, so patient records reach proper destinations. When a client corresponds with a primary clinician through the dashboard, the patient portal must copy the digital communication to the patient’s EHR.

Ease of use and communication through the patient portal result in better user experience for both clinician and client, accurate EHR documentation, and access to care. 

5. How can you create higher rates of engagement for web-based addiction recovery services?

All business websites connect readers to services or products. 

Web copywriters work to build trust, resolve fear, and persuade readers to follow a call-to-action. However, behavioral health practices have a more difficult time engaging readers through the buyer's journey because of stigma, self-limiting beliefs, and the early stages of awareness: pre-contemplation and contemplation. 

You have to build your addiction recovery services to convince readers your services are the best option and require the least amount of energy for them to connect with you.  

You can position your substance use treatment as friendly, compassionate, and understanding with an attractive design. When your website and dashboard are easily understood and navigated, web-based users will be more likely to trust you and your approach to addiction recovery. 

Proper structure, language, ease-of-use, and calls-to-action work best when it is effortless to engage with your content. 

Some ways to consider increasing engagement through addiction recovery include:

  • Live chat
  • One-click call, schedule, submit, and join now buttons. 
  • Simple enrollment process
  • Insurance verification

6. How can we market our digital services to new and existing clients? 

David Ogilvy wrote the book on advertising 40 years ago, and it is still as relevant in today's busy digital landscape. In Ogilvy's On Advertising, he stresses the fact that every marketing campaign must begin with research.

It is vital to use the array of digital marketing tools to steer your target audience to your web-based health services. Your marketing department should research a proper content strategy and implement it. 

Recovery doesn't happen overnight; neither does digital content marketing. Web-based marketing campaigns are a process of nurturing readers through your addiction recovery services' funnel. 

Every blog article, social media post, paid advertisement, and email marketing campaign you launch builds upon one another to create a seamless campaign for the user.

Research the language your audience uses, the social media platform(s) they spend time on, and how to best join in their conversations instead of interrupting them. 

Are you ready to start implementing a digital health plan?

The answers to these questions should work as your guide for implementing addiction recovery services to engage your target audience. Interacting with clients in the online arena adds a new level of engagement for your treatment team and the populations you serve. 

Learn to extend past traditional in-house services and embrace the technology available to you. Web-based health services removes the barriers blocking pathways to treatment and recovery. It will help you improve the quality of life for people with substance use disorders in the communities you serve.  

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About John Makohen

John Makohen is a freelance writer who helps Drug Rehabs and B2B SaaS companies with their content needs. He also holds a CASAC and CRCP. He has helped numerous addiction recovery services, such as The Lighthouse Sober Living, The PAC Program of New York, and Serenity Parks Recovery with the SEO and website content. His work has also been seen on Blogging Wizard, Make a Living Writing, and The Addiction Blog. When he isn't working he enjoys long runs, dark coffee, and coaching clients to drug-free highs.