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MENTAL HEALTH CENTER OF DENVER

The human side of tech

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

DIGITAL REPORT 2020


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The Mental Health Center of Denver: The human side of tech www.mh cd . or g


MENTAL HEALTH CENTER OF DENVER

Dr Wes Williams, Chief Information Officer of the Mental Health Center of Denver, tells us how technology could make Denver the healthiest city in America Dr Wes Williams wants Denver to be the healthiest city in America. His role in this, as Chief Information Officer of the Mental Health Center of Denver, is to lead on technologies that play an instrumental part 04

in supporting the city’s most vulnerable. But in the course of a wide-ranging interview, Williams also speaks enthusiastically about how innovation has benefited the people who work at the organisation.

MAKING TELEMEDICINE WORK: THE TRANSITION TO REMOTE TREATMENTS In Colorado, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only taken a toll on people’s mental health; it has also created unprecedented challenges for the clinics that provide them with care. Even for an organisation that prides itself on its innovative approaches, the transition from in-person therapies to telemedicine hasn’t been easy. Dr Williams admits that when the organisation was forced to bring all of its services online – which it managed to achieve in two days – putting the technology in place was


The Mental Health Center of Denver’s Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services team provides specialized outpatient mental health care for deaf and hard of hearing children, families and adults.

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www.mh cd . or g


MENTAL HEALTH CENTER OF DENVER

“You can get sucked into thinking that the tech itself is the solution. But the reality is that it’s only the easy part” — Dr Wes Williams, CIO, Mental Health Center of Denver

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Dr Williams feels that in some ways the upheaval could have been a bless-

only the start of the process. “You

ing in disguise. “The takeaway for me

can get sucked into thinking that

is that if you practice something, you

the tech itself is the solution. But the

can figure it out. We’ve had the chance

reality is that it’s only the easy part.

to really practice and learn how to do

It took a lot more work to figure out

this well. That’s been the silver lining.

how to really do that work – how to

And from a telemedicine standpoint,

make everything happen”.

I’m optimistic that even when it’s safe to go back into clinics, some folks are going to choose to continue to receive their care via telemedicine, because it’s more convenient”. To illustrate his idea, he mentions that since patients have been attending appointments remotely, the number of no-shows has decreased by almost a third.


Benefits of VR Treatments CLICK TO WATCH

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2:49

07 C OM C AST P ART NE RSH I P A vital partner for the Mental Health

“Modern medical facilities like MHCD

Center of Denver has become Comcast

require fast, flexible and secure network

Business, which provides broadband

connectivity that ensures the integrity

connectivity at 35 locations across the city,

and availability of health data when

critical redundancy for multiple residential

treatment teams need it,” said Robert

and walk-in facilities and supporting a

Thompson, vice president of Comcast

widespread shift to telehealth services.

Business for the company’s Mountain

During the Covid-19 crisis, thanks to Comcast

West Region. “Comcast Business was

Business, the Center’s workforce was able to begin telecommuting on the same day that the service delivery line shifted to telehealth. The throughput is now able to support

proud to help the MHCD team quickly get the network up and running, so staff could continue to provide the highest quality care to outpatients and residents.”

multiple concurrent video sessions – from five telehealth sessions a week before the

For more information, please visit

pandemic, now about 4,000 are possible.

https://business.comcast.com/denver.

www.mh cd . or g


“If you practice something, you can figure it out. We’ve had the chance to really practice and learn how to do this well” — Dr Wes Williams, CIO, Mental Health Center of Denver

truly make a difference to people’s lives. Before its clinics were closed, it had introduced virtual reality (VR) into its therapy sessions and mindful-

INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENTS

that VR is a perfect fit for what the

The Mental Health Center of Denver

sessions are aiming to achieve:

harnesses technologies in ways that

“What’s great about VR compared with

ness classes. Dr Williams believes

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E X E C U T I V E P R O FILE :

Wes Williams Title: Chief Information Officer Industry: Mental Health Care Location: Denver, Colorado Dr. Wes Williams joined the Mental Health Center of Denver in 2007 and now serves as vice president and chief information officer. In 2020, Wes was awarded the Colorado CIO of the Year Corporate ORBIE, honoring chief information officers who have demonstrated excellence in technology leadership. Wes opened Mental Health Center of Denver’s Innovation Technology Lab in 2019, using humancentered design to find digital health innovations to improve access, engagement, and treatment efficacy. Wes is currently serving a threeyear appointment by the governor to Colorado’s eHealth Commission, representing behavioral health interests. Wes is a licensed psychologist in Colorado.

© 2018 Guerrero, LLC/Photo by Cassandra Davis www.mh cd . or g


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any other cognitive behavioural ther-

Dr Williams talks passionately about

apy is that it’s so immersive. It sort of

the benefits that this brings. “I think

tricks your mind into being right there.

that it’s a special part of our organisa-

And I think that is especially impactful

tion. There’s a lot to be said for going

for things like mindfulness, and expo-

back to work, and having that sense

sure therapy”.

of meaning in your day”. The Centre

Another of the Center’s ambitious

is involved in the IT aspects of the pro-

projects is a supported employment

gramme, and developed an app that

programme, which helps people

helps staff cultivate new placements.

suffering from serious mental illness

So far, over 160 people have found

to find work. The Center liaises with

work through this scheme.

both patients and potential employers

The Center has also used IT to make

in order to set up placements, and

the programme work more efficiently www.mh cd . or g


MENTAL HEALTH CENTER OF DENVER

1989

Year founded

$100Mn+ Revenue in US dollars

900+ 12

Number of employees

The Mental Health Center of Denver’s 2Succeed in Education program offers a wide variety of trainings, including computer classes.


Using Technology to Treat Health CLICK TO WATCH

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1:18

13 for the people who coordinate it.

hasn’t gone unnoticed. In July he

Dr Williams explains: “Previously the

received an ORBIE award at the

staff working on our supported employ-

Colorado CIO of the Year Awards, for

ment programme had to spend a lot

his work at a corporate organisation.

of time just doing reports. But we have

Talking about the lessons that larger

been able to automate a lot of the

organisations could learn from how

bureaucracy and paperwork – and that

the Mental Health Center of Denver

feels good, because it means that they

manages its resources, he stresses

have time to spend actually working with

that clear-headedness counts for

people, instead of filling out forms”.

more than deep pockets. “In order to really do something unique and

MAXIMISING THE POTENTIAL OF HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGIES

finished everything else. It’s about tak-

Dr Williams’ success in making a dif-

ing that vision and figuring out: given

ference with healthcare technologies

my limited resources, how should I

innovative, we can’t wait until we have

www.mh cd . or g


MENTAL HEALTH CENTER OF DENVER

“We have been able to automate a lot of the bureaucracy and paperwork – and that feels good, because it means that [our staff] have time to spend actually working with people” 14

— Dr Wes Williams, CIO, Mental Health Center of Denver

line things up?” But he is most keen to credit the people who have allowed the Center to be a pioneer in innovative solutions: “I really like the staff here. They have a culture of innovation – they’re used to doing things differently clinically; used to figuring out what works. When we have good people, we can take that same innovative approach to technology, and how might that help with healthcare”. When it comes to new innovations, the Centre looks outwards as well as inwards; but Dr Williams points out

Lessons for Innovative IT CLICK TO WATCH

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2:30


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that it doesn’t have to look far. “One

time. What I’m hoping is that everything

of the things that’s really special about

we’ve learned about telehealth during

Colorado is there’s a lot of collaboration

the pandemic takes root in healthcare,

within healthcare. Every other month

and really explodes”.

there’s a meeting of hospital and healthcare CIOs. We talk about the different challenges we have faced, and how we handled the situations. And this feels special, because in this landscape our organisations are all sort of competing, but people are still willing to share”. How will we see telemedicine develop in future? “This is a really interesting www.mh cd . or g


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Profile for Business Chief USA

Mental Health Center of Denver - September 2020  

Mental Health Center of Denver - September 2020  

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