MHA CAPSTONE PROJECTS – Making a Difference in Lives and Bottom Lines

Allison WhitworthAllison Whitworth, MHA | Weber State University MHA graduate Allison Whitworth’s capstone project went to the heart of the healthcare industry — saving lives. Whitworth examined ways to improve services for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) clients within Utah’s mental healthcare system. Prescription drug abuse has resulted in premature deaths, contributed to significant economic burdens through increased healthcare costs and fueled the rise in heroin addiction throughout the U.S. The epidemic has made it imperative for Utah to engage those who are struggling with an OUD. Data from 13 local mental health authorities showed that all of those agencies expressed concern regarding client engagement and retention. In addition, the data showed that successful completion of treatment rates were particularly low for those with OUD. Whitworth’s study suggested a protocol for client outreach and engagement, which is designed to ensure that individuals get the support needed to remain engaged in treatment. Whitworth developed a performance improvement plan that the health authorities could use help meet specific client outcomes, with a focus on follow-up. Appropriate follow-up can help identify misunderstandings and answer questions, make further assessments and adjust treatments, and ultimately keep the client engaged in treatment. The plan also provides agencies with instructions on how to create their own internal protocols, a timeline for appropriate follow up, tracking documents and evaluation expectations. The 13 mental health authorities have the option to opt into the performance improvement plan Whitworth developed. They can tailor it to meet their needs and receive technical assistance and training from the state. In 2021, participating authorities will begin to benefit from Whitworth’s work. This is expected to provide an increase in successful treatment completion for those with OUD over the three years the protocol is implemented.

Jake Holt, MHA | In order to provide excellent patient care, clinics have to take care of themselves. Weber State University MHA graduate Jake Holt helped bring a multi-specialty clinic back to financial health. For his senior capstone project, Holt conducted a revenue cycle audit of the clinic, which had lower-than-expected revenue compared to other clinics in its system. In fact, the clinic was operating around $100,000 under budget per month. During the project, Holt learned the revenue cycle process, identified key stakeholders, found discrepancies in the process and collaborated with those stakeholders to implement solutions and monitor outcomes. Specifically, he focused on ensuring that clinical staff members accurately documented their work, and charges were posted to correct accounts. Through identifying incorrect billing processes and system issues, Holt’s capstone project allowed the clinic to re-bill more than $900,000 in the past 18 months. In addition, the clinic’s revenue surpassed budget by more than $1.5 million in the first seven months of clinic operations. Only fixes to the billing systems, no changes in volumes in workflow, resulted in that increase. If the clinic maintains its pace, it will have an end-of-year revenue of $6.6 million rather than the previously projected $4 million.