As more financial investment pours into the eating disorder residential treatment industry, it is a relief to know there are more options for patients who need intensive help. However, clinicians are left with several questions and concerns about the intention and skill of these centers.
The first pressing question is the effect on the quality of treatment when financial personnel run a sensitive and challenging clinical endeavor. The quick proliferation of treatment centers means hiring and training of less experienced people hastily in order to staff new programs quickly. Clearly, this can affect the quality of treatment.
Second, it’s very possible that the bottom line will lead to sacrifices of the more nuanced and crucial aspects of treatment that distinguish an excellent program from one that checks all the boxes of an adequate one. Focusing on running a business successfully is often at odds with clinical care.
Third, the expansion of marketing of these programs may very well attempt to convince clinicians to utilize residential programs when other clinical options are preferable. The treatment community has to be reflective enough not to be swayed by shiny new promotional materials. What’s best for the patient must remain paramount.
It’s concerning that the influx of money and power may very well corrupt a clinical endeavor driven by passion and determination to serve a community of sick people not treated well by the medical establishment. The likelihood is that savvy investors will capitalize on access to funds from a wealthy constituency willing to pay for treatment at the places deemed the best.
The most insidious result of the newfound changes in the eating disorder residential treatment industry is the increased admission of adolescents to programs. Although some teenagers get very sick, many kids first diagnosed can recover quickly when families initially become aware of the problem. However, these kids are so susceptible to experiences and their egos are still so malleable that immediate long term care as a first line defense may very well set them up for a longer course of illness. I’ll expand on this idea in the next post.