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In the behavioral health industry, good culture drives good business. We’re proof.



In the behavioral health industry, good culture drives good business. We’re proof.

Erik Osland

Behavioral health specialists are typically among the most compassionate folks you’ll ever meet. Oftentimes, they’ve made real sacrifices to do their jobs, motivated by a deep and genuine commitment to caring for others. As an industry, though, what do we end up doing with these folks? We give them complex patient caseloads. We overwhelm them. We burn them out.

It’s ironic that in an industry like behavioral health, its most-devoted workers face an infrastructure that doesn’t value their own behavioral health.

In this regard, our industry can and should do better. At evolvedMD, we’ve prioritized building a values-driven organization — one that continually fortifies the health of its employees so that those employees can then fortify the health of their clients. This isn’t just good for people, it’s also good for business. Here’s how.

Happy, healthy, high-level

evolvedMD’s mission is to integrate behavioral health into the primary care setting so that patients can see a therapist at the same location they see their primary care doctor — and so these professionals collaborate more closely for a patient’s needs. Thought leaders in academia and elsewhere have long understood that integrating these two services creates better outcomes. But the change has happened painfully slow. evolvedMD is reimagining modern care by staffing this integrated healthcare model and providing training and support for that staff.

At our company, we often say we’re provider-focused. Now, that’s a bit different than what you usually hear in healthcare — “We’re a patient-focused organization” is the typical refrain. To best serve patients, though, we approach our role from a different angle: identify great behavioral health professionals, bring them into our organization, then support them both personally and professionally. If we develop these folks along the way, and they're healthy and they're happy, then guess what? The product and the therapeutic interventions they provide are high-level, and we'll deliver great patient care as a result. We've always known employee wellbeing was our core focus, and we've built that into our culture.

That's put us in a position to retain our social workers and counselors. We’re viewed as a good place to work (as recognized by the Phoenix Business Journal). That’s one of the most important tenets of our journey: You can do a bunch of things from a workflow/efficiency/financial modeling perspective, but if you can't go out and hire good people — and then keep them — you're in a bad spot. This outlook has been central to our growth.

Growth is exciting, but it can also be painful if not done thoughtfully. It’s a lot easier to instill culture when you've got 10 employees than when you’ve got 1,000, so we’ve tried to build evolvedMD’s culture early, then make that culture-building a very deliberate act as we’ve grown.

evolvedMD is growing fast. We currently have 21 sites spread across Arizona and will likely expand to quadruple that nationally within the next 12 to 18 months. With that expansion, our core question has been, “Can we grow and retain our culture?” We've made significant investments in our internal infrastructure to prepare for that growth.

Self-care accountability

I wish I could say I'm perfect when it comes to self-care habits. But it's vitally important. You have to commit every day to doing something for yourself. That could be meditation, that could be exercise, that could be whatever it is that's important to you. But it’s key to keeping you healthy and happy. Based upon the industry we're in, evolvedMD understands how important this is. But we're also making ourselves accountable. For example, we have a bonus, and one of the components to qualify for your bonus is daily self-care; we track it on a habit tracker to keep people accountable. It’s just a core part of who we are. And we want to encourage it for everybody in the organization.

My business partner, Steve Biljan, deserves a lot of credit for this approach. I've known Steve for a long time, and he’s one of the most thoughtful individuals I’ve ever met. Steve really has been this powerful voice in my head for the last few years.

For me, what’s changed is how I look at the role employees play in our organization’s success. It’s easy to mistakenly look at them as just cogs in the wheel — as replaceable. That might help the bottom line or help your shareholders, but in a very short time period (and yes, in the long run, too) that doesn't help the organization. It certainly doesn't help your employees.

What success looks like

Culturally, we’ve really tried to bring in good people that align philosophically with the company’s values. And we make the effort to really care about them. This gets harder as we grow — it’s tough to know everybody on a personal level — but it remains a priority for us. And we think that's going to help evolvedMD’s long-term success.

For us, success means a lot of things. It means we help our people. It means the organization prospers. And from a financial perspective, it means we generate a positive revenue stream that's aligned with our expectations. Those things don't have to be separate — you can treat people well and have good profits margins. And in an industry like behavioral health, shouldn’t we practice the same self-care that its professionals preach?

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