Navigating Industry Evolution:

Thriving Amidst AI Advancements, Compliance Challenges, and Workforce Shortages
October 31, 2023 by
Simplifyance, Gina Thorne

The landscape of behavioral healthcare (BHC) has drastically changed within the past five years – the initiation of value-based care contracts, CMS and SAMHSA increasing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) buy-in, national accreditation becoming a mandatory business activity, and significant increases in mergers & acquisitions (M&A) activity are just a few examples. So, the question becomes…what’s next?

Our CEO Parker Smith shares his perspective on what the future may hold. Innovation will transform all aspects of behavioral healthcare; compliance is here to stay and keeping our workforce happy and engaged should be at the top of our priority list.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

You can’t get through a single day anymore without reading or hearing about it. This train has picked up steam and it is not stopping -- exciting, frightening, and everything in between. Although our industry is infamous for the sloth-like adoption of technology, be prepared for the rapid scaling of AI products in clinical, medical, operations, and revenue cycle management functions.

A significant factor reshaping my conviction is the influx of private, government, old & new money into the industry. What does big, smart money look for? Automation, risk management, ROI, and scale.

AI will influence all these important components of the operation. Keep an eye out for toolchains delivering predictive analytics, conditional workflows, and advancements in clinical diagnostics and treatments. With appropriate and effective application, this is one of the few immediate factors that can combat our #1 industry challenge: the workforce shortage.

Simplifyance™ is innovating using revolutionary A.I. tools, so get in touch with us to learn more.


My experience in behavioral health operations and “compliance” left me often frustrated. This time-consuming process took my focus away from client care and staff engagement. After some time, I realized that our compliance efforts were directly fostering a culture of safety for clients, increasing staff retention, and improving our treatment outcomes.

I suggest shifting your perspective to focus on “quality” instead of merely compliance. Providers are ultimately seeking to provide quality care. If you adopt the standards, put forth by state licensing, national accrediting, and other certifying bodies, quality is typically a byproduct. This is not a complicated concept, and it amazes me that the lack of compliance buy-in is so widespread in our industry. It is only going to get more challenging. In reference to the injection of capital into our market: “mo money, mo problems.” When markets grow, so does their regulatory environment. 

Our easy-to-use software tools streamline this business function so you can sleep better at night knowing your perpetual compliance is on autopilot.

Workforce Challenges 

Honestly, I don’t blame people for fleeing the field or choosing to join a Telehealth behemoth so they could work in the comfort of their own homes. High turnover, stagnant wages, and burnout have escalated as our population experiences historic increases in undesirable physical and mental health-related symptoms. Nurses, doctors, and hospital workers finally received some long overdue recognition spawning from the COVID-19 pandemic. But where was the love for therapists, behavioral health technicians, psychiatrists, and other frontline workers in BHC settings? FYI, the majority of BHC organizations had significantly fewer infection, prevention, and control resources such as protective equipment and access to vaccines. If I were being asked to see eight clients a day (in a mask), run three groups per week, document all my notes in less than 24 hours, AND respond to the variety of emails, chats, and message boards? Sorry…no.

All stakeholders need to collectively work through this issue. Payers, step it up. The current reimbursement rate averages make it virtually impossible for operators to pay staff what they deserve. Government, step it up. SAMHSA as well as other federal, state, and local municipalities can stimulate academic and trade school programs that incentivize people to join our field.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, research shows that every dollar spent on substance abuse treatment saves $4 in healthcare costs and $7 in law enforcement and other criminal justice costs.10 On average, substance abuse treatment costs $1,583 per patient and is associated with a cost offset of $11,487, representing a greater than 7:1 ratio of benefits to costs.11 “ You don’t need a calculator to know that this is an investment worth making.

As a solution-focused founder and CEO, I believe there are productive ways to move the needle. Technology can be a valuable tool to mitigate the risks of our shrinking workforce. Streamlining health and safety protocols ultimately saves time and builds a strong culture that increases staff retention.

Get in touch with us to see how we can supplement your workforce with services and software that deliver.

For Your Consideration: 

Although we’ve seen little materialize in the value-based care model of reimbursement, it has certainly been the talk of the town and will be a focus of payers moving forward. Let’s circle back to my earlier concept around “quality.” With value-based care rapidly approaching mainstream adoption in our industry, what are some of the factors of “quality” that will be used to calculate reimbursements?

Clinical outcomes are top of mind. Validated assessment tools such as the PHQ-9 and BAM help measure self-reported decreases in undesirable mental health symptoms and cravings. Companies such as @commonlywell are delivering technology to streamline data collection and provide real-time feedback to consumers and providers to help adjust treatment and transition planning.

But what else? Staff retention, regulatory compliance, and effectiveness of documentation are building vital momentum that will ultimately shift the nature of reimbursement models.

Collectively we find ourselves in a unique time in history, especially in behavioral healthcare. Our industry is rapidly evolving, and some say there is a reshuffling of the deck. M&A activity has slowed down causing buyers and investors to caution. AI is making its big push, regulatory expectations are increasing, and our workforce is contracting. The question I’ll leave you with today is: 

How is your organization responding to the advances in our industry?