Written by: Center for Care Innovations

When Solvista Health’s new CEO Brian Turner came on board in June 2018, one of the first things he did was try to access the Colorado healthcare provider’s intake and enrollment process, as any prospective client would, says Erica Elliott, child and family supervisor at Solvista. He found it less than satisfactory.

Frankly, says Elliott, the staff already knew it was a fail. Solvista Health, which serves a largely rural community in Colorado, subscribes to a philosophy of connection and client-centered, comprehensive care throughout its mental health, substance abuse, and integrated care treatment services. And yet despite these honorable intentions, the nonprofit’s intake system was found wanting—even among administrative staff closely engaged in the process, notes Elliott, a therapist. Its enrollment process prioritized “checking the boxes” to meet the needs of funders, regulators, and agency policies rather than the needs of clients, who want to feel supported, valued, validated, and cared for, she explains. This was especially disheartening because it was the clinic’s first opportunity to establish a meaningful connection with someone in need of care.

Front desk review at Solvista Health.

Anyone who has ever tried to schedule a medical appointment knows that the barrage of paperwork and bureaucracy—including the front-line focus on insurance and form filling—can feel off-putting, intimidating, and overwhelming—anything but human-centered. Client feedback indicated that Solvista Health’s process produced anxiety and uncertainty about whether patients would “pass the test” to be accepted into treatment, notes Elliott. The fallout of this disconnect is that individuals would forego necessary care or seek out other providers; there was a high rate of attrition between initial contact with Solvista Health and engagement in ongoing treatment, she notes. The Solvista Health team knew the intake system wasn’t working. Bottom line: unhappy customers and unhappy staff.

So Solvista Health decided to fix it. A team at the healthcare provider set out to engage individuals seeking care for the first time by focusing on their unique needs and experience of care. Just as medical director Max Goodman on the TV hospital drama “New Amsterdam” does, they decided to put their patients first in the process, asking the question that pops up repeatedly on the popular procedural: “How can I help?”

“When you work so hard to create systems to help people and they aren’t working, it’s discouraging,” says Amie Adams, Solvista Health’s chief administrative officer. “I remember our clients sharing that it takes a lot of courage to walk in this door. The first impression is the most important—it could be hard to come back.”