Leadership in the Mental Health Care Industry [Interview][Transcript]

Jennifer_Steiner_Mental_HealthcareGuest: Jennifer Steiner
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Jennifer Steiner has a history of excellence in healthcare delivery, and a proven record of success. Before becoming CEO at InnerChange, Jennifer served in executive roles for leading healthcare providers across the country. Now, she is making it her life’s work to foster a difference in the lives of the families InnerChange serves. Jennifer holds an MBA from the University of Michigan – Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Colorado College.

Segment overview: Jennifer Steiner, CEO of InnerChange, a family of residential and outpatient mental health treatment programs for adolescents, young adults and their families, discusses her counter-intuitive approach to leadership and growth in the current mental health care industry.

Health Professional Radio – Leadership in the Mental Health Care Industry

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program, I’m your host Neal Howard here on Health Professional Radio, thank you so much for joining us today. Our guest in studio is returning to speak with us, Jennifer Steiner, she’s the CEO of InnerChange. Now, InnerChange is a family, residential and outpatient mental health treatment programs for adolescents, young adults, and their families and she’s returning here on Health Professional Radio to talk about her particular ‘counter-intuitive approach’ to leadership and growth in the current mental health care industry. Welcome back to Health Professional Radio, Jennifer.

Jennifer Steiner: Hi Neal, it’s a pleasure to be here.

N: Thank you so much for returning. When we were here before, we talked about your CORE methodology there at InnerChange, we talked about some of the ways that you are changing the way that healthcare professionals, especially mental healthcare professionals are relating to their clients there at InnerChange. Today, I’d like to talk about your approach, your particular approach, and InnerChange’s approach to leadership and growth in the current mental health care industry as it stands. Let’s talk a little bit about, first about your background and how you came to be CEO of InnerChange.

J: Sure, absolutely. Well, I like to describe myself as a chronic healthcare leader. I have been committed to healthcare in serving what I called ‘vulnerable populations’ for most of my career and so my … into InnerChange and in the mental health field was a continuance of that. But I have found that mental health is a bit different from many segments of healthcare and so it’s pre-decides some really interesting challenges for me.

N: Now, being different in just a fact that it is mental health, when you’re dealing with adolescents and young adults, there’s even (I guess, for a lack of a better term) sometimes more of a challenge, when you’re dealing with people that are growing into adulthood and have mental health issues at the same time.

J: Yes, absolutely. It’s been an interesting challenge to be treating folks on what I called the ‘front-end’ of healthcare. Much of my career has been spent with end-of-life with elderly patients. But more notably Neal, what I have found to be very unique is that, I think the mental health field is sort of the last frontier of healthcare. It is a space that has been not generally reimbursed by pairs and what that mean is that, there has been very little accountability for treatment. When a care services is reimbursed, pairs really motivate provider to show that, what they’re doing works and given that mental health has not been supported by pairs oftentimes, they haven’t been held accountable to showing that what they’re doing works. So, I found this space to be very exciting because there’s so much opportunity to be more clear and more precise around some defining the effectiveness our care.

N: When talking about results-driven mental healthcare, in your opinion why do you think that there’s has not been the ‘push’ for more accountability and why does that lack of accountability exists in what you say, the last frontier and the frontline of defense?

J: Well, accountability comes usually with a pair requiring a provider to do that. So, when an insurance company says, “We’re only going to pay for this treatment if you can show us that it actually worked.” And that’s not historically been the way things have worked in mental health because it mean them, there hasn’t been a lot of reimbursement. But with the introduction of the Accountable Care Act, we’re seeing a lot more reimbursement from insurance from mental health conditions, and with that has come the requirements to demonstrate that the work we’re doing is effective. As a basic example, if you just think about someone you know in your life, who may have gone to see an outpatient therapist for just maybe have some trouble and it is not a common practice that a provider will sit down and say, ‘Okay, here’s your presenting condition, here’s the progress we’re going to make along the course of our therapy and here’s the outcome that you can expect and I’m going to be held accountable for that’. That’s just not common in mental health and yet it’s critically important. We all know the data showing us that the spend in the U.S healthcare system is being driven disproportionately by mental health issues. So many chronic conditions and other healthcare conditions are exacerbated by mental health issues, but very few folks can really put their finger on, ‘How do we do something about it? How do we ensure that we’re actually making things better? And how do we demonstrate that?’. So, this is a really big deal.

N: Do you think that maybe there’s a trust issue when it comes to dealing with someone, getting inside someone’s head, and fixing things sometimes maybe, it’s not like it’s a heart transplant or it’s not like it’s taking out the appendix or removing a leg, something I can see, something tangible, I can feel it or it’s not there. But when it comes to mental health, do you think that maybe there’s something on the practitioners’ part to foster even more trust and thereby gaining more stride?

J: You hit the nail on a head with an important issue here which is, one of the factors that has made this very difficult, this measurement in demonstrating effectiveness is that there is a bit of artistry here and there is a little bit of, ‘How do I know if I’m going to give someone a heart bypass, if I did the right into it, but how do I make it black and white that the treatment I provided has quote unquote healed someone or not’. So I think that is one piece that will continue to make this a challenging task because it is a little less binary than other healthcare conditions. Yet at the same time, I think we absolutely can demonstrate, ‘has someone been depressed? And are they depressed after the course of treatment? Or was someone demonstrating certain types of behaviors? And are they demonstrating them after the course of treatments?’ There are some things that are tangible that we can look at to see if this has worked.

N: Do you think that your particular approach to fostering better leadership and communication in the current healthcare industry is something that you brought to InnerChange or is this something that has evolved during your tenure there at InnerChange?

J: Something that we do very uniquely at InnerChange is the use of relationships to insight change in our clients and interestingly, we’re using some of these very same principles to strengthen our organization internally. So I have taken a lot of these principles that we used in our clinical model relationships like the family systems approach in working together as a healthy family system and I’ve applied them to our company. So, we’re learning as a company to be more connected to have real relationships and we’re actually finding that these principles are strengthening our company and helping us to be better providers and that’s pretty neat to say, the same thing we’re doing the heal clients is actually healing ourselves.

N: Have you seen any other models that even come close to this model of yours and this is something that is totally brand new and how long is this approach been around?

J: That’s a great question. I think, companies overtime have certainly looked at how they’re interacting with one another and the importance of culture and applied those concepts to strengthen their companies. So, I’m certain that in many of these concepts have existed in pieces and parts to other companies. But I would say, this is a pretty unique approach to actually take a company’s own clinical model and apply it to itself. And I would say that some of the principles included in our model things like really, really motivating folks to be in relationship with one another and to be collaborative with one another. Our little care on intuitive to what I would deem as a widely accepted business practice. So I think that’s pretty unique.

N: And where can our listeners go and get more information about InnerChange and this counter-intuitive approach?

J: Well, you can certainly visit our website which is, innerchange.com and we talk a lot on our side about our CORE methodology and how we’re using that to grow as a company.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard, in studio with Jennifer Steiner, CEO of InnerChange. It’s been a pleasure talking with you today Jennifer.

J: Thank you Neal, it’s been a pleasure.

N: Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm, and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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