6 Ways Vendor Management Can Improve Patient Care and Outcomes

In the rapidly evolving environment of healthcare, ensuring optimal patient care and outcomes are the top priorities for healthcare organizations.  Effective vendor management is a strategic approach that can significantly contribute to achieving this goal.   Vendor management requires the systematic management of external service providers.  When applied effectively in healthcare settings, it can result in improved patient care, enhanced operational efficient, and better overall outcomes.  Below we explore six key ways in which vendor management can positively impact patient care and outcomes.

  1. Quality Care

Vendor management goes beyond filling staffing gaps; it entails the selection of vendors with a commitment to quality care. Healthcare organizations can establish partnerships with vendor managers that prioritize patient safety, compliance with regulations, and the highest standards of service. Through rigorous vetting processes and ongoing performance evaluations, vendors can be held to the highest standards, which ensures their commitment to delivering quality care.

  1. Reduce Costs

Vendor management helps control the costs associated with vendor services through contract management and performance monitoring. By using vendor management services, healthcare organizations can allocate internal resources more efficiently, directing them toward areas that directly impact patient outcomes; i.e., medical technologies, staff training, etc. Effective vendor management ensures that every dollar spent contributes to improved patient outcomes.

  1. Adaptability

The healthcare environment is dynamic, and the ability to adapt to changing demands is crucial for delivering optimal patient care. Vendor management provides healthcare organizations with the ability to scale their workforce up or down based on fluctuating patient volumes. Whether facing seasonal variations, unexpected public health events, or other factors influencing demand, a well-managed vendor network allows healthcare facilities to remain responsive and ensure consistent, high-quality patient care.

  1. Decisions Based on Data

Vendor management systems equipped with in-depth reporting and analytics capabilities help healthcare organizations make data-driven decisions. Access to real-time data on vendor performance, resource utilization, and patient outcomes allows for continuous improvement. By analyzing key metrics, vendor managers can discover ways to enhance or refine their vendor partnerships and implement changes that directly impact patient care.

  1. Access to Specialized Services

Vendor management allows healthcare organizations to utilize vendors who offer specialized services or technologies. This access to specialized resources improves the range and quality of patient care by incorporating advanced diagnostics, treatments, and/or support services that may not be available in-house.

  1. Reduce Risks
  • Compliance Management

Across the board, one of the biggest benefits of vendor management is the assurance that all vendors comply with industry regulations and standards. Organizations can reduce their legal risks by monitoring and enforcing compliance.

  • Data Security and Privacy

When dealing with confidential client data, vendor management ensures that all vendors are providing the necessary security measures through highly customized technology designed for each client.

  • Insurance and Liability Management

An essential part of vendor management is to assess the insurance coverage and liability of vendors. Confirming that vendors have appropriate insurance will protect the healthcare organization in case of financial or operational hiccups.

Effective vendor management is a strategic imperative for healthcare organizations seeking to deliver quality patient care. By prioritizing quality of care, reducing costs, adapting to changing environments, making data-driven decisions, and reducing risks, healthcare facilities can leverage vendor management as a powerful tool for achieving excellence. As the healthcare environment continues to evolve, a proactive approach to vendor management will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of patient-centered care.

Management Solution’s Vendor Network Event 2023

This past ,July Management Solution held our annual Vendor Network event.  This is the first vendor event that we have had since COVID and it was a great success and so much fun.  We held our two-day event in a beautiful resort in Huntington Beach, CA.  The weekend included training, interactive discussions, service booths, games, great food, and awards. Management Solution values the partnership with all of our network vendors and this was a great weekend to show our appreciation for their recruitment efforts and long-standing support of our programs.  

Take a peek at some of the fun below:

Mental Health in 2023

Mental health care is a critical aspect of overall healthcare. Mental health care encompasses how individuals think, feel, and behave. Mental illness can affect anyone, and the effects of untreated mental illness extend far beyond the individual. The societal impact of inadequate mental health care is significant. 

Each year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) declares May as Mental Health Awareness Month. According to NAMI, “It’s important to measure how common mental illness is, so we can understand its physical, social, and financial impact – and so we can show that no one is alone.” According to NAMI’s fast facts on mental illness, one in five adults and one in six youths aged six through 17 in the United States experience mental illness annually. One in 20 adults experiences serious mental illness every year. NAMI provides these statistics, noting that “These numbers are also powerful tools for raising public awareness, stigma-busting, and advocating for better health care.” Keep reading to learn more about mental health, barriers to treatment, and how Mental Health Awareness Month can make a difference. 

Mental Illness in America in 2023

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines mental health as anything that “includes a person’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being and affects how we feel, think, and act.” Mental Health America conducts an annual study that compiles data regarding how mental health affects the country. Like all reports, there is a delay between data collection and publishing of the results. Mental Health America notes that this year’s study uses data collected in 2020, which includes data accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the pandemic undoubtedly affected physical and mental health, the study results are consistent with mental health studies for the last several years. Statistically, reports of mental health conditions are rising as access to care becomes more limited and difficult. Mental Health America’s 2023 found that:

  • 21% of adults in the United States live with at least one mental illness
  • Of these adults, 55% with a mental illness have not received any treatment
  • 4.8% of adults reported serious suicidal thoughts (roughly 12.1 million adults)

Increased Substance Abuse Disorders

The provider shortage plus barriers with insurance providers have made getting treatment difficult. When adults cannot receive treatment for mental illness, they look for alternative coping mechanisms. Increasingly, adults are turning to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms in place of mental health treatment. 

Mental Health America’s 2023 study found that nearly 11% of adults reported abusing alcohol, and nearly 7% reported abusing illegal drugs. Untreated substance abuse disorders have contributed to an increase in overdose risk factors. In 2020, more than 93,000 overdose deaths occurred in the United States. 

With mental health concerns on the rise, access to care is critical. However, access to care is one of the primary reasons people with mental health care do not seek help. The provider shortage plus barriers with insurance providers have made getting treatment difficult. 

Barriers to Treatment

A key factor in reducing the disease burden of mental illness is increasing accessibility to treatment. When people have access to the care they need, they can take a proactive approach to managing their mental health, resulting in a positive impact at both the individual and community levels. 

According to a public policy report from NAMI, almost half of the 60 million Americans with mental health conditions do not receive treatment. Reasons for this vary, but there are significant barriers that prevent people from accessing mental health care, including:

  • Insurance Barriers:  It is often more difficult to find a mental health care provider than other types of health care professionals, especially with the current provider shortage. When coupled with the limitations of finding a provider who is considered in-network on an insurance plan, access to mental health care is difficult at best. 
  • Provider Shortage:  Even before COVID-19 there was a shortage of psychiatrists. Over 150 Americans live in federally designated mental health professional shortage areas already, and the numbers don’t show signs of immediate improvement. According to an article posted by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the country will be short between 14,280 and 31,109 psychiatrists.  
  • Financial Barriers:  With many adults unable to find providers that take their insurance, the cost of treatment is all out-of-pocket. The rising cost of living and stagnant wages have contributed to making it increasingly difficult for many to afford out-of-pocket treatment for mental illness. 

The Impact of Mental Health Awareness Month

According to the NAMI, the number of people seeking help for mental health issues has significantly increased in recent years. In 2019, NAMI reported that more than 44 million adults in the United States had a mental illness, and only about half of those received treatment. However, in 2021, NAMI reported that the number of people seeking help for mental health issues had increased to over 50 million adults. That means that while cases of mental illness continue to rise, so does the number of people receiving treatment. A number of factors contribute to the rise in adults seeking treatment including increased awareness of mental health due to the information provided during National Mental Health Month. 

Increasing awareness is a key factor in people seeking treatment for mental illness, but so is reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. When people feel ashamed or embarrassed about their mental illness, they are less likely to reach out for help and the treatment they need. Initiatives like National Mental Health Month help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Any reduction in barriers to treatment, like access to resources, can help those living with mental illness find treatment. 

In addition to increasing awareness and reducing societal stigma, other factors contribute to people seeking treatment for mental illness. One important factor is parity laws. Parity laws require health insurance to cover mental health services to the same extent that physical health care services are covered. Currently, there are still significant disparities in the way that mental health services are covered. For example, mental health services are still more likely to be charged out-of-network, and in-network provider reimbursement rates are lower for mental health visits than for primary care visits. 

While there is still much work to be done, awareness campaigns like NAMI’s National Mental Health Month have a positive impact on mental health care.

Three Essential Qualities for a Vendor Management System

Healthcare today is facing some unprecedented challenges. With a growing demand for services and a shrinking labor pool, many healthcare organizations have difficulty meeting patient demand and maintaining a high standard of care while adhering to budgetary guidelines. Vendor management systems (VMS) can be an invaluable asset to healthcare organizations.

An effective vendor management system offers many benefits. With a contingent workforce, healthcare organizations have access to on-demand employment and are always prepared to provide high-quality patient care even if there is a significant increase in demand for service. Additionally, scaling staff up or down is easier with a contingent workforce, making operations more cost-effective according to the demand for services.

Managing a contingent workforce takes significant time and organization. A vendor management system is a cost-effective way to manage your workforce, but you need to choose the right VMS to benefit. How do you know what VMS will be the best fit for your company? Below, find three of the most important considerations when choosing a VMS for your healthcare organization.

Compliance Management

Maintaining compliance is critical for healthcare organizations and staffing. When working with a vendor management system, it is important to work with one that understands the importance of compliance. Maintaining compliance is critical for several reasons, including:

●  Patient Safety: Patient safety is crucial, and regulations are in place to ensure patient safety is not compromised. Maintaining compliance with regulations and guidelines ensures that patients remain protected against harm.

●  Legal Liability: Litigation is time-consuming and costly, and failing to comply with regulations can result in lawsuits, as well as penalties and fines. Additionally, lawsuits can damage the reputation of a healthcare organization and erode patient trust. Maintaining compliance helps hospitals and other healthcare organizations avoid lawsuits and legal liability.

●  Patient Care: In addition to patient safety, patient care is at the center of all healthcare organizations. Most healthcare providers must have the necessary training, qualifications, experience, and certifications to provide services. Maintaining compliance with qualifications for employment ensures that patients receive a high standard of care. 

●  Ethical Considerations: Healthcare providers must treat patients with dignity and respect. Additionally, they must provide care without discrimination due to race, gender, or other factors. Compliance addresses ethical considerations in healthcare, ensuring equal access to healthcare services. 

To provide safe, respectful, and quality patient care, healthcare organizations must be in compliance with all established guidelines. An effective vendor management system will locate qualified professionals for open staffing positions, and thoroughly vet each candidate. Requirements can be set based on a specific position or location to help a VMS find qualified candidates, and further candidate vetting ensures hospitals and other healthcare organizations maintain compliance.

Vendor Neutrality

Neutrality is an important consideration when choosing a VMS for your healthcare organization. If a VMS is owned by a staffing agency then it would be considered a managed service provider (MSP), and its overall design and functionality will be driven by the financial objectives of the owners. The goal of a typical MSP is to fill as many of the staffing needs as it can directly in order to leverage its client and vendor relationships.   Staffing agencies (vendors) are typically reluctant to engage with many MSP’s but are usually forced to do so to increase their business revenues.  Some healthcare organizations don’t fully understand the most common MSP objectives and may engage too quickly out of desperation to immediately supplement their staffing needs with any healthcare workers that the MSP may have readily available.  This can be costly and may not align with the overall finical goals of the healthcare organization and can ultimately impact the continuity of healthcare services.  

Vendor neutrality attracts staffing agencies nationwide to participate in VMS programs.  This type of level playing field incentivizes staffing agencies to fill positions without fear of having their candidates solicited by a competitor such as an MSP. Ultimately the recruitment results for the healthcare organizations will improve significantly and the administrative burdens will decrease through streamlined communications with the vendor-neutral VMS.  When a VMS is truly vendor-neutral, there is no hidden agenda and no conflict with potential candidate solicitation which encourages vendor participation and expands client access to high-quality healthcare services.

Management Solution is not a staffing agency and is vendor-neutral. We have extensive staffing experience, which puts us in a unique position. With our staffing industry experience, established industry affiliations, and strong negotiation skills, we help healthcare organizations create cost-effective contingent workforce programs.

Reporting Capabilities

Healthcare organizations must make decisions with the information available to them. For effective and efficient operation, healthcare systems need to understand what they spend money on and when money is spent. Without access to this data, it is hard to make sound decisions. Before choosing a VMS, you must know what type of data you need to make informed decisions.

Transparency and clear communication are critical factors in improving access to the labor supply and increasing the chance of finding qualified candidates quickly. A vendor management system should be able to provide an organization with all workforce data at any time. Providing real-time reporting and analytics allows healthcare organizations to carefully monitor the performance of their contingent workforce and ultimately, to make informed staffing decisions.

At Management Solution, we offer a full-service on- or off-site program to healthcare organizations. This allows our clients to consolidate and manage workforce development through a customizable web-based program. With increased access and the ability to view all workforce data, our clients can make informed decisions that benefit their organization.

Ready to get started? Contact Management Solution today to start talking solutions. 

Rising Bill Rates in Staffing Agencies

VMS programs help standardize, centralize, and streamline all aspects of the business relationship between staffing agencies and healthcare organizations that utilize their services. There are a number of costs associated with facilitating these relationships which are all included in the bill rate. Bill rates are hourly rates that healthcare organizations pay for every hour of work performed by the contingent workforce. These rates are negotiated between the VMS with the client and are determined according to the specific costs involved for a staffing agency to recruit and employ the contingent labor they provide.

Bill rates are paid only for hours worked by contingent workers and can fluctuate according to supply and demand. In times of great need when healthcare organizations urgently need contingent staff, bill rates will increase. Conversely, when demand for staff is lower, bill rates will decrease. Given the current shortage of healthcare workers and economic climate, bill rates are on the rise.

Types of Bill Rates

Simply stated, a bill rate is an hourly rate paid to staffing agencies for their employee’s work time.  Bill rates are the foundation of contingent workforce packages which determine how much money agencies have to work with on any given assignment.

Bill rates must account for costs that include:

  • Agency Internal Operational Costs
  • Advertising / Recruitment
  • Continued Administrative Support for Duration of Contract
  • Onboarding and Compliance Costs
  • Paid Sick Time
  • Professional/General Liability Insurance
  • Workers Compensation Insurance
  • Costs Related to Malpractice/Employment Litigation
  • Employment Taxes
  • Travel and lodging
  • Advance payroll funding

    A bill rate is not the same as a pay rate as many factors influence bill rates. The pay rate is what the healthcare worker will earn per hour worked. While it is often the largest cost, the pay rate is only one variable in determining the bill rate. There are three main types of bill rates: standardized, negotiated, and bid bill rates.

    Currently, the most common type of bill rate is the standardized bill rate. A standardized bill rate is a rate agreed upon by the staffing agency and the client. The second type of bill rate is the negotiated bill rate. Unlike standardized bill rates, negotiated bill rates are determined by the specific project. This type of bill rate is not currently very common but may be used in instances where a client seeks a specific skill set or specialty. Bid bill rates are the third major type of bill rate. While bid bill rates tend to be more common than negotiated rates, they are still not as widely used as standardized bill rates. A bid bill rate allows entities to submit bids for bill rates. This system is intended to help clients get the best price possible, however, that does not always mean the lowest bid rate. While a lower bill rate is more attractive, clients are often willing to pay more for candidates who fit the demands of the position.

    Understanding the bill rate means understanding the categories of pay rates within bill rates. These are important considerations for vendors, clients, and members of the contingent workforce. Significant bill rate categories include:

    • Standard Rates
    • Specialty Rates
    • Regular Time Worked Rates
    • Overtime Worked Rates
    • Blended Bill Rates
    • On Call Rates
    • Call Back Rates
    • Crisis Rates
    • Holiday Rates

    Why Bill Rates are Rising

    COVID-19 did not start the nursing shortage. The United States has experienced periodic nursing shortages since the 1990s, however, the current nursing shortage is reaching critical levels. According to a data study by the University of St. Augustine, “the United States is in the midst of a critical nursing shortage that is expected to continue through 2030.” With an increase in demand for nurses and a labor shortage, bill rates have escalated.

    Why is there such a critical labor shortage in the healthcare industry? Multiple factors are contributing to the current healthcare labor shortage. Some of the most influential factors include:

    • An Aging Population: According to the World Health Organization, one in six people in the world will be aged 60 or older by the year 2030. Additionally, 19% of people over the age of 55 have three or more chronic conditions according to the CDC. Longer lifespans and multiple chronic conditions greatly increase the demand for healthcare services.
    • An Aging Workforce: An aging population means more people are approaching retirement, and the healthcare industry is no exception. According to a 2020 article published by The Journal of Nursing Regulation, the median age of all registered nurses is 52. An aging workforce means fewer registered nurses are employed by healthcare systems, but also contributes to the current shortage of experienced and qualified nursing instructors. As nursing programs struggle to find qualified nursing educators, the number of students enrolling in programs is reduced.
    • Burnout: Age is not the only factor driving the mass retirement of healthcare professionals. One in five healthcare workers affected by the pandemic has quit their jobs. The mental and physical toll the COVID-19 pandemic took on healthcare workers was great and accelerated burnout among employees.
    • Working Conditions: Healthcare workers are increasingly citing working conditions as a reason to leave their jobs. Labor shortages often mean additional overtime and increased workloads and responsibilities.

    In addition to the critical shortage of healthcare workers, operating costs are up across many industries. Inflation drives up many costs related to running a business from overhead costs like building leases to pay rates for talented nurses and healthcare professionals. Bill rates can include many factors, some of which include:

    • Work Performed by VMS/MSP
    • Liability and Insurance Coverage
    • Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
    • Employee Onboarding
    • Pay Rate of Healthcare Professionals
    • Travel Reimbursement
    • Non-Taxed Per Diems
    • Non-Taxed Housing Stipends

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected number of open positions for registered nurses from 2019 through 2029 is 175,900 annually. As hospitals and other healthcare systems operate with negative margins, the prevalence of contracting with staffing agencies is forecasted to continue.

    While the bill rates have been rising, there has been a call for federal oversight of pricing policies among travel nursing agencies. During COVID, many hospitals experienced a plummet in profit levels. With the pay for travel nursing reaching an all-time high during the pandemic, The American Hospital Association (AHA) notified the Federal Trade Commission of concerns over potential price gouging. The AHA and other lawmakers have urged further federal investigation as bill rates continue to rise.

    With the number of factors influencing the bill rate, staffing agencies maintain that the included costs are increasing not due to price gouging, but to meet demand. Addressing the factors contributing to the nursing shortage is one of the most significant ways to maintain, or lower, bill rates.

    Benefits of Using VMS in a Candidate-Driven Labor Market

    According to a study published by St. Augustine University, “the United States is in the midst of a critical nursing shortage that is expected to continue through 2030.” With a labor shortage and an ever-increasing demand for healthcare services, healthcare staffing is currently in the midst of a candidate-driven market. Vendor management systems are poised in a unique position to facilitate expedient hiring, which is critical to obtaining a qualified and skilled workforce in a candidate-driven market.

    Administrative tasks related to maintaining a workforce require significant investments of time and money. This can lead to a drawn-out recruitment process during which qualified candidates lose interest. Hospitals and healthcare systems want skilled and qualified top talent. An efficient and timely recruitment and hiring process are necessary to attract quality candidates in a candidate-driven market. With the shortage expected to continue through 2030, the landscape of healthcare staffing has changed significantly. In a candidate-driven market, it is more important than ever to place candidates efficiently.

    What Created a Candidate-Driven Market?

    What Created a Candidate-Driven Market?

    A shrinking labor pool and an increase in demand for services have led to intense hiring competition among hospitals and other healthcare systems. The current nursing shortage began long before COVID, but the pandemic worsened the problem. In the aftermath of the pandemic, one in five healthcare workers has quit their jobs. Many healthcare employees who left their positions have also left the profession entirely.

    There is no single cause of the current labor shortage. Multiple factors influenced the healthcare professional shortage, including:

    • An Aging Population: The World Health Organization states that one in six people will be 60 or older by 2030. An aging population affects the labor market in two ways: increased demand for healthcare services and healthcare workers aging out of employment.
    • Excessive Turnover: Turnover rates increased significantly following the COVID-19 pandemic. Turnover not only affects the ability of healthcare organizations to provide care, but it also affects the remaining employees. As healthcare employees leave their jobs, the remaining workers experience higher patient loads and more responsibility – without a pay increase. This results in exhaustion and burnout, causing even higher turnover rates.
    • Lack of Nursing Educators: According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “faculty shortages at nursing schools across the country are limiting student capacity at a time when the need for professional registered nurses continues to grow.” Between budget constraints, aging faculty members, and increased job competition, finding qualified nursing instructors is becoming increasingly difficult.

    Why Placing Candidates Quickly Matters

    To remain competitive in candidate-driven markets, speed is essential. Understanding why a quick hiring process is necessary can help you to identify candidates and fill positions with more qualified individuals quickly. An expedient hiring process is attractive to both businesses looking to hire and those seeking new employment opportunities. When faced with an extended hiring process, many candidates will choose to remain in their current position or move to another opportunity.

    In-demand candidates can afford to be more selective. This means you must act more quickly during the hiring process to attract and retain top talent. Not only do highly qualified candidates tend to make hiring decisions more quickly, but they also tend to view a fast hiring process favorably. To candidates, a lengthy hiring process can negatively impact the assessment of your corporate culture.

    In addition to attracting top talent, a swift hiring process can be fiscally beneficial. With a shrinking labor pool and an increased demand for skilled workers, candidates may often receive multiple bids. Extending an offer quickly can avoid a bidding war, allowing you to attract top talent at a lower salary cost.

    Why Placing Candidates Quickly Matters

    How a VMS can Help Healthcare Organizations Find Top Talent

    Finding the right talent in a timely fashion can be difficult. Hospitals and other healthcare systems have difficulty adapting to the growing demand for skilled and talented professionals. With a shrinking labor pool and time constraints due to other operational duties, finding the perfect candidate for placement is difficult. Fortunately, an experienced VMS can help. VMS’s innovative technology can streamline the entire recruitment and hiring process.

    There are several ways in which a VMS can help with expedient hiring, including:

    • Tracking Talent: When using a contingent workforce, it is expected that professionals will come and go. The right VMS will maintain meticulous records of the professionals they have placed, which can make it easier to rehire top talent. A VMS can automate tracking of candidates whose performance exceeds expectations, making it easier to rehire valuable individuals. This helps not only provide adequate staffing levels but also reduces the amount of time spent training and onboarding. Additionally, because all employees are tracked, you can eliminate candidates who are ineligible for rehire. Some employees attempt to return to positions by using different staffing agencies, and a VMS that tracks everything can identify this and automatically rule out those candidates.
    • Experienced Suppliers: Suppliers with more experience tend to do a better and more efficient job at finding the right candidates for open roles. When using a VMS to handle an extended workforce, you can reduce waiting times for locating candidates by specifying the exact skills each open role requires. Staffing suppliers use the guidelines from the VMS to streamline the hiring process.
    • Competitive Rates: The more administrative time it takes to find, hire, onboard, and subsequently offboard contingent workers, the higher the rate. Reducing time spent dealing with administrative tasks allows you to offer more competitive rates to attract top talent. With bill rates on the rise as a result of increased demand for talent, it can be hard to stay competitive. Working with a VMS to streamline and centralize the hiring process can help save money that can then be used to help offer more competitive rates.

    With a shortage of labor expected to remain through 2030, industry forecasts suggest a continued increase in demand for talent

    With a shortage of labor expected to remain through 2030, industry forecasts suggest a continued increase in demand for talent. Creating a contingent workforce is an efficient and cost-effective way to get the staff necessary for daily operations. A VMS can be an invaluable resource when building a contingent workforce. By streamlining the entire process, a VMS saves hospitals and other health systems a significant amount of money and time required to recruit top talent.

    In a candidate-driven market, the speed of the hiring and placement process is more important than ever. Working with a VMS can facilitate easy and efficient hiring, helping you build the workforce you need when you need it. At Management Solution, our vendor-neutral approach and experience managing contingent workforces help you get the top talent your healthcare system deserves. 

    Vendor Management and its Potential to Improve Mental Healthcare in Correctional Facilities

    Vendor Management and its Potential to Improve Mental Healthcare in Correctional Facilities

    mental health in correctional facilities

    According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), “about two in five people who are incarcerated have a history of mental illness. This is twice the prevalence of mental illness within the overall adult population.” Mental illness disproportionately affects women inmates, with nearly 66% of women reporting a history of mental illness, which is nearly double the percentage of men.

    With a constitutional obligation to provide both mental and physical healthcare to those housed in correctional facilities, the burden of providing treatment is something many facilities struggle with. Due to increasingly tightening budgets, larger populations, and an overall shortage of psychiatric and mental healthcare providers, adequate mental healthcare in correctional facilities is challenging.

    Prevalence of Mental Illness in Correctional Facilities

    According to an article in The Guardian on the role of mental health care in correctional facilities, “correctional facilities are struggling with the reality that they have become the nation’s de facto mental healthcare providers.” While the number of psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers has continued to decline over the last few decades, the prevalence of mental illness among the population has continued to climb. 

    Currently, the country’s largest providers of psychiatric care are not hospitals, but correctional facilities. Without adequate access to mental healthcare, it is arguably too common for someone dealing with a mental illness to end up in a correctional facility. In fact, in a report from the National Institute of Corrections, “the number of individuals with serious mental illness in prisons and jails now exceeds the number in state psychiatric hospitals tenfold.” This places the burden of treatment on the jails and prisons, many of which are unequipped to handle the mental health needs of inmates.

    With the right to treatment affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, correctional facilities must provide care to those with mental illness. As budgets continue to tighten and correctional facilities are forced to stretch resources further than ever before, providing adequate psychiatric care is challenging. The National Alliance on Mental Health affirms that incarcerated people have constitutional rights to both medical and mental health care yet “nearly two-thirds of people with mental illness in jails and prisons do not receive mental health treatment.”

    In addition to providing basic treatment and medications, incarcerated people could benefit greatly from supportive programs and therapies. With the ultimate goal being to rehabilitate incarcerated people and move them back into their communities, proper treatment of mental illness is crucial. 

    Prevalence of Mental Illness in Correctional Facilities
    Correctional facilities struggling with the reality that they become mental healthcare providers.
    The country’s largest providers of psychiatric care are not hospitals, but correctional facilities.




    Vendor Management in Correctional Facilities

    Without significant regulatory changes, the burden placed on correctional facilities to provide mental health care at the level needed is immense. One way that correctional facilities can provide psychiatric care with limited resources is through the use of vendor management. 

    Vendor management and a contingency workforce can be invaluable in terms of providing immediate care to those housed in correctional facilities. An important need regarding mental health care is a diagnosis, particularly in correctional facilities. With people living in such close quarters, identifying cases of mental illness where a person may pose a threat to themselves or others is of immediate concern. Some correctional facilities are large enough to warrant designated mental health units, specifically for housing those who may pose a threat to themselves or others. However, while some facilities have mental health units, they often struggle with being able to afford permanent full-time providers who can identify and diagnose cases at the onset of incarceration.

    In this instance, temporary help can be a cost-effective method of ensuring the safety of those living and working in correctional facilities.  A locum mental health care provider could review cases before or during the intake process, before placement to identify instances in which an inmate may pose a threat to themselves or others without immediate intervention. While this is important in any facility, it can be especially beneficial in areas where the population of both the correctional facility and the local community does not have access to full-time psychiatric services.

    Alternative Mental Health Treatment 

    Like most healthcare providers, correctional facilities face tight budgets and increasing demand for services. The healthcare landscape is constantly evolving as providers struggle to meet demand with the resources they have available. With the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative telehealth became a more mainstream medical and mental healthcare tool. 

    The use of technology through telepsychiatry can broaden access to mental healthcare in correctional facilities. Solutions that utilize healthcare technology, like telepsychiatry, are more than convenient, they can also help mitigate cost barriers to treatment. Transportation, of both inmates and providers, can affect access to treatment and telepsychiatry can virtually eliminate those costs. 

    In addition to mitigating costs, telepsychiatry can be a safer method of treatment for providers. Feeling safe is imperative for providers to offer effective treatment, and telepsychiatry can increase the level of comfort of both the inmate and healthcare providers.  

    When considering mental healthcare and correctional facilities, it is clear that significant regulatory changes must happen. However, until regulations and guidelines broaden access to and budget for mental healthcare, using vendor management systems can be an efficient and affordable way to provide mental health services in correctional facilities.