Acadia (NASDAQ: ACHC) is prioritizing strategic investment in its technology capabilities and comprehensive treatment centers (CTCs) for opioid use disorder.
At the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Acadia CEO Christopher Hunter said these priorities would “drive the business forward” over the next year. As the largest pure-play behavioral health provider, Acadia sets the tone for the rest of the industry.
When it comes to implementing new technologies, behavioral health providers have traditionally lagged behind their physical health counterparts. This is especially true with electronic health records (EHRs), a key priority for Acadia. One of the main reasons for this lag is that behavioral health providers were left out of the 2009 HITECH Act, which gave health care providers funding to encourage the “meaningful use” of EHRs.
While Acadia has advocated for federal funding for behavioral health EHRs, it has also invested internally in the technology. Acadia’s Chief Financial Officer Heather Dixon noted that these technologies will help facilities run more efficiently and improve the paperwork burden for providers.
But that’s not the only reason Acadia foresees EHRs as a key investment. It could also help facilitate more innovative contracting in the future.
“Across the entire industry, if you went to [behavioral health] inpatient and sub facilities, you would see a prevalence of paper that you don’t see in other parts of health care,” Hunter said. “It’s pretty difficult for payers to enter into value-based arrangements where there’s so much on paper. That’s one of the reasons strategically we felt like we needed to make investment into advancing technology getting [EHRs] in place, so that we would have data that we can show payers and ultimately put some value-based contracts in place.”
In addition to EHR investments, Acadia has poured funding into remote patient monitoring technology.
“That remote patient monitoring technology really helps us ensure that the right processes are followed in our facilities,” Dixon said, “and that we have the best patient care… to ensure that we are meeting our own quality standards and certainly giving the best patient care delivery that is possible.”
A CTC focus
The provider also highlighted its plans to invest in its CTC business. The company is investing in two major initiatives: improved wait times and increased accessibility.
“When you have patients that are coming in, on many occasions for a daily visit, for extended periods of time, it’s very important to them that when they make it into the facilities, there is availability at those facilities,” Dixon said. “This is certainly a progressive care continuum, where they need to stay in their care, and also that they can get in and out in a very short period of time.”
Historically, patients’ wait times at the CTCs ranged from 10 to 15 minutes. But the provider has looked to curb this and get patients in immediately.
“There’s no wait time,” Dixon said. “We have some particular investments and centralized capabilities to make sure that we can put patients into care at the right clinics, meet them where they are, and have the right hours for the patients to come so that they can continue with their day.”
In addition to expanding access and availability at these facilities, the provider has also heavily invested in helping Medicaid patients retain or regain their coverage after Medicaid determinations. Medicaid makes up 50% of the organization’s total revenue.
The company has done this by setting up a dedicated 800 hotline, providing kiosks at facilities and through staff training initiatives.
Acadia’s CTC business and its other substance use disorder treatment programs could see a boost in federal funding in the future. Opioid manufacturers, distributors and other entities involved with the opioid epidemic will pay $56 billion over the next 10 to 20 years for their role in the crisis. Still, this could be more of a future-looking opportunity.
“We think this is really more of a 2025 phenomenon than having significant upside and ’24,” Hunter said. “There will be opportunities and there already are, but they are smaller opportunities. We think there will be more [sizable ones] in the coming year.”