Our 2019 Year-End Review

2019 was a year of opportunities for us, and we feel we took them.

That’s not just self-trumpeting, or trying to humblebrag about what we did. With today being the last day of 2019, we reflect on our year, and what 2020 brings for us. We had real, substantive achievements in a wild, varied year. We saw more patients than ever before; we helped more people with depression through TMS than last year; we expanded our team, expanded our social media and public presence, and added an entirely new division, set to open in early 2020. In short, we simply grew.

And yet, we did so much more than that this year.

It can be hard to measure achievements for a company besides the numbers or metrics on the page. You have to look deeper at the individualized achievements of all team members, and see everything we did on a granular, personalized level. It’s important to remember the little things that add up to the whole, and remember Next Level care is delivered by experts doing their best with everything they have.

We participated in five different health, business, and career fairs to help reach people. We donated gifts to the kids at CEDARS, as well as handed out candy during Halloween. Jordan’s charity helped raise coats for the needy during the winter; our holiday party went excellently; our tailgate was great fun (even if the Huskers didn’t win the game); team members got new certifications, degrees, and opportunities; patients received access to new, expanded services as a result. Team members got engaged; some had children, either for the first time or expanding their existing families. And some people simply changed their hairstyles.

We can look forward to 2020 because our 2019 was such a varied, exciting year that kept us on our toes. We have even more opportunities coming up, and we’re excited for all of them.

Below is a video slideshow of our year, reflecting the many ups we had as a company and as a family. We’ll see you in 2020.

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Alivation’s 2020 Resolutions

We like to think we can always do better.

Perhaps that’s a radical statement, but we believe it. For us, Next Level also applies to ourselves as an organization. Of course, Alivation doesn’t make the sort of resolutions the average person does. According to polls, the most common New Year’s resolutions are exercising more, eating healthier, and saving more money. We’re not able to exercise more, or eat healthier, though our Alivation Aesthetics will help patients with increased wellness and cosmetic happiness. Saving money? Sure, that’s also something an organization could strive for.

But it isn’t the kind of resolution we mean.

Don’t get us wrong: All those resolutions are very beneficial to an individual. Our resolutions are a little broader, but no less important to our health and well-being. They aren’t as easy to define, but that doesn’t mean they are indefinable. Rather, our resolutions are centered on the way we grow, how we treat others, our place in our community, our engagement levels with patients, and the ways we’ll reach more people in the coming year.

It’s no secret that we’ve grown a lot in 2019. We’ve added a lot of team members, and it seems likely we’ll add more in 2020. We resolve to grow more because our increased team numbers allow us to see more patients, and to potentially help even more people. We don’t need a New Year’s resolution to see more patients, but we like to take the opportunity to reinforce our commitment to the betterment of the larger community. We never stop sharing our message, no matter the time of year. We’ll keep striving to best educate our patients on their options, and the possibilities we have for the betterment of their care.

Part of how we’ll do that is expanding our marketing and our reach. We want to make sure everyone who needs help is aware of us, and of how approachable we are for whatever challenges they face. Pursuing that goal, we’ll launch Alivation Aesthetics, our new branded affiliate, and continue finding new ways to encourage and promote wellness in all people who come through our doors. We’ll work on integration and making sure we can solve whatever ails the thousands of people who rely on us for excellent care.

For our last resolution, we’ll need some help.

We’ll need help from patients in letting us know how we can do better for them. We welcome the feedback. We love to hear ideas from our team members for how we can better serve our population as well, and we can see more and find novel ways to increase our already-great quality of care. We still believe in improvement no matter how great we are. There’s always room for it, and the sky’s the limit. We resolve to always consider the best new technology to better treat our patients, and to consider the best financial options for those who need assistance but have trouble with the cost. We always need people to be open and honest, and our final resolution is to take sincere and useful suggestions to heart, the better to improve and evolve in the best ways possible.

We are beyond excited for the opportunities 2020 holds.

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Mental Health Literacy

Mental health care asks patients of all backgrounds to analyze and use complex information. Be it reading or accessing services, learning about options and understanding symptoms, interpreting test results, or correctly following dosages and instructions, it can be difficult to communicate clearly. What works for one may not work for someone else—and can have very negative consequences. One estimate put the economic cost of low medical health literacy in the U.S. at $106-$238 billion annually, or around 7-17 percent of all personal healthcare expenditures[i].

It gets bigger. The same report places the estimates for future costs of low health literacy closer in range to $1.6-$3.6 trillion annually[ii]. The numbers are likely as high for mental health care, and only likely to increase, sometimes in ways we can’t even see yet. These gigantic numbers show there is a lot of money to be saved, both to patients and to hospitals, by increasing health literacy and readability[iii]. Quality of life and outcomes can be improved with greater clarity and better ease of reading[iv]. There are many strategies to improve this, and many theories on what works.

At Alivation Health, we try our best to disseminate complex, important information in readable ways. We have lots of technology and services that can be difficult to understand for the layperson, especially when modern media hasn’t quite caught up to where we’re at. TMS isn’t a highly discussed topic on the nightly news—not to mention the full name is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a mouthful for even those of us who practice it. EEGs are considered more of a niche item in medical health reporting. Depression itself is still deeply misunderstood by large swaths of the public, and unique mental health challenges are often grouped into the same categories as unrelated conditions.

If patients don’t understand what we’ve told them, we often try to fix our presentation. It’s our responsibility to make ourselves understood, and to make sure patients hear what we must tell them. This is especially true when it comes to informing families who have patients with mental health challenges. We make sure the entire family is on board and understands, and we help them get the resources they need to be fully educated in what they should do, how they should do it, and how we can help be with them every step of the journey.

We try our best to accurately inform and educate about what we do and how we do it. We do what we can to use plain language, and we run our materials through readability formula filters to ensure at least a degree of prediction for reader understandability. We test run everything to see what messages resonate, and which don’t. We’re always expanding our vocabulary, trying our best to use known words to relate the information to those who need it most. It’s essential all our patients comprehend 100% what we’re telling them. Our providers work through information with patients, explain as clearly as possible, and we print instructions for medications on the bottle for reinforcement. We use graphics, charts, and pictures to help convey the important information in easily digestible ways.

We don’t want to help further the statistic of high costs of health illiteracy. Quality of life is too important for our patients to get difficult reading materials. Our hope is that we can start informing accurately, and soon others will do the same. Before we know it, the world will have a better grasp and understanding of these concepts, and everyone, especially the patients, will be better off than they were before.

[i] https://publichealth.gwu.edu/departments/healthpolicy/CHPR/downloads/LowHealthLiteracyReport10_4_07.pdf

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] https://nnlm.gov/initiatives/topics/health-literacy

[iv] https://www.ahrq.gov/downloads/pub/evidence/pdf/literacy/literacyup.pdf

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Artificial Intelligence in Mental Health

We’ve all seen countless movies and television shows about artificial intelligence (AI) and its many supposed drawbacks and features. Sometimes it’s a ridiculous scenario like The Terminator, involving sentient cyborg assassins and the future. Sometimes it’s just the friendly droids and robots that populate the Star Wars universe. As entertaining as these depictions can be, they’re only a very small cultural part of AI.

Scientists are now experimenting with artificial intelligence not only in the realm of conventional medicine, but for mental health. This might sound odd at first, and it certainly is a paradigm shift from the conventional. But forget the image of a robot in a whitecoat prescribing medication or listening to you on the couch—the proposed future of AI in mental health is far more sophisticated than that.

One of the largest uses for AI is to parse and sift through massive amounts of data and look for patterns. This is part of the process of deep learning for a machine, a component of machine learning[i]. It’s meant to digitally mimic the neural network process of a brain, but on a larger computing scale that works far more efficiently. IBM Watson is a famous example of this type of machine[ii]. The ability for a networked machine or AI to read millions of abstracts a day, or look for important data points in its body of research, can help yield vital clues for patient care and health. It can also make predictive models based on the data it mines, and try to help detect patterns that doctors and health officials can use to prevent problems from ever occurring at all[iii].

This deep learning has been proposed to be used in all aspects of mental and physical health care, ranging from reading entire case histories about patients, to reading their entire genome and evaluating genetic markers, to using its store of known data to help guide doctors make the best judgments for care with greater accuracy than previously imagined[iv]. In medicine and mental health, having access to massive stores of information is a serious help. The only problem in conventional medicine is that a doctor never has time to read and utilize all that data, least of all during a routine visit. A machine that can, and provide the important points, could only help in that process[v]. Some have even speculated that AI might one day replace radiologists and other professions[vi].

Another window into mental health through AI is smart devices that can monitor a person’s condition. Some have visualized a device like an Alexa, devoted entirely to chatting with a person, recording vital signs such as pulse, or using what are called digital phenotyping traits (tics, eye movements, pupil dilation, breathing changes, etc.) to monitor a person’s condition. Changes in the norm can prompt a response, or call for help if drastic and needed[vii]. For those with serious mental health conditions who can’t be left alone, this type of personalized device can be lifesaving. For the elderly as well, who often need routine checkups for many physical markers, this device might also prove astonishing in its value[viii].

There are still many, many frontiers in this field left to be explored, and many ethical and technical issues to work out. Can an AI perform palliative or end-of-life care for a patient? Can it deliver a terminal diagnosis? Can it perform potentially controversial procedures, or even help end a human life? The next decades of research and trials will determine where exactly we go with it, and how it’s used. But there is now no question it will play a part in mental health care, to one degree or another. If used properly, it can be a tremendous advantage and a lifesaver.

[i] https://machinelearningmastery.com/what-is-deep-learning/

[ii] https://www.ibm.com/cloud/deep-learning

[iii] https://www.roboticsbusinessreview.com/health-medical/healthcare-ai-first-point-contact-patients-policymakers/

[iv] https://www.brainfacts.org/diseases-and-disorders/mental-health/2019/how-artificial-intelligence-is-shaping-personalized-mental-health-care-041219

[v] https://www.roboticsbusinessreview.com/health-medical/healthcare-ai-first-point-contact-patients-policymakers/

[vi] https://www.radiologytoday.net/archive/rt0118p10.shtml

[vii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6127813/

[viii] https://www.roboticsbusinessreview.com/health-medical/healthcare-ai-first-point-contact-patients-policymakers/

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Alivation’s Holiday Spirit

Alivation is proud of its diversity.

We have many modes of thinking, many modes of beliefs, many avenues of Next Level Care for our patients. We’re not a uniform bunch, and that’s what sets us apart from more conventional organizations. And this same diversity applies to our year-end celebratory efforts and how we choose to give back.

The end of the year is when we, culturally speaking, start thinking about others, our contributions, and what we can do to brighten the days of others. Next Level doesn’t just apply to our care, but in how we treat and reach out. Each year, team members of Alivation donate gifts to the kids at CEDARS. It’s a wonderful cause. Our hope is to do all we can to brighten their days and give them something special. Our culture encourages helping others in any manner they might need it.

Jordan Knapp, one of our team members, heads the “Keep Out the Cold” charity, where he collects winter clothing for the homeless. He was once homeless himself—he knows firsthand that in the cold Nebraskan winters the gift of a coat can make the difference for someone’s survival. At last year’s holiday party, Alivation proudly donated to his cause. Channel 8 was kind enough to feature him as a news story this year to help get the word out, for which we’re very grateful.

Our holiday party is being held on Friday, December 6th. The theme is Casino Night, and we’ll be dressed to the nines for a fun evening. On top of just having a good time with our fellow team members, we also hand out awards and take time to celebrate as a tean. We’ve always believed in giving shout-outs and recognition to those exemplifying the Next Level spirit throughout the year. It’s always hard to choose—so many people make good candidates for these awards. We’re blessed with an abundance of talent, drive, and passion.

It’s always been important to us to be more than just a healthcare facility, or another organization. Our ambitions are lofty but justified: We want to be an integral part of the community, and an integral part of countless patients’ personal journeys to their own Next Level. We don’t set small goals for ourselves because we don’t want to achieve small things. We want to help as many people as possible, and in as many ways as they can be reached. In 2020, we hope to break all our records.

We encourage everyone to give a moment or two to think of the needs of others, and the meanings and feelings of this season. With 2020 rapidly approaching, this is when we make our goals and our resolutions. Please, if you’re able, donate to the kids at CEDARS. Donate a coat to Jordan’s charity. There are many, many other fine charities ongoing throughout Lincoln this time as well, such as the People’s City Mission or the Salvation Army. Donate to whichever you’d like, or all. Give what you can to help others get to their Next Level. We love taking the time to recognize the heart and spirit that makes better things possible.