In addition to implementing treatment protocols, the four experts offered specific steps for health system leaders and healthcare providers to help prevent or remedy gaps in care.
Automate medication management. Instead of struggling to obtain or remember to take pills, administering medication via a transdermal patch can be useful for patients, Jackson said.
A home health nurse may be also provided to ensure medication is taken, while some clinics give patients the option to use an app or wearable device to help them stay on track.
Remove the red tape. If timely patient record release procedures aren't in place, patients may not refill or take their medication on time and can miss therapy appointments. “Without the release of patient records, the outpatient clinic is in a difficult position to continue behavioral therapy," Olivarez pointed out.
Teach patients about the benefits of care. Patient buy-in is also important to prevent gaps, Olivarez noted. “We experience many patient 'no shows' because patients simply believe they do not need additional or on-going behavioral health interventions," Olivarez added.
Assign an advocate. Patients with lower functioning should have a power of attorney—someone who can make decisions on their behalf. “Their power of attorney could make sure they are being compliant with their medications and appointments," Jackson said. Inpatient facilities typically can tell if a person should have such an advocate, which can help promote continuous care. When protocols are instilled, it should account for assigning a liaison in these types of cases.
Call in help. While medical professionals can institute protocols to ensure continuity of care, Jackson said a person's support system is integral as well. “Family members and caregivers should be working with the mental health professional as well," she added.
Better patient support, whether it be from a social worker, sibling, or spouse, is vital to avoid gaps in care, Olivarez explained. Having someone who can help a patient who is too ill to manage his or her own treatment is imperative.