What Is Trauma-Responsive Health Technology?

In recent years, society has lightened the stigma around mental health.

Do you agree? 

Thanks to policy initiatives, marketing campaigns, and celebrity disclosures about their own battles, public perception of mental health is changing. Words like resilience, boundaries, grief, self-care, culturally-responsive, and trauma-informed are becoming part of our vernacular. 

That last phrase – trauma-informed – has its roots in medicine in the 1970s when doctors began treating the physical and emotional needs of veterans of the Vietnam War. The next 5 decades saw an expansion of the term to other disciplines, including behavioral health, social services, education, and businesses, too. 

A trauma-informed organization is one that –  

  • Acknowledges the widespread impact of trauma and the correlation between the number of traumatic events or degree of traumatic experiences and the potential for long term, adverse impact 
  • Recognizes certain subgroups of the population are more vulnerable to trauma (e.g., racial and ethnic minorities; individuals with disabilities)
  • Understands the multifaceted impact of trauma on a person’s daily functioning and physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well being as it relates to success in school, the workplace, family life, and integration into the community
  • Prioritizes establishing trust, safety, collaboration, and empowerment within the organization to enhance the quality, effectiveness, and delivery of services provided to individuals and groups 

To put it more simply, being trauma-informed is having heightened awareness and education around the prevalence and impact of trauma. 

Awareness and education is important. But it’s not enough. 

When organizations move from being grounded in trauma-informed principles to employing trauma-responsive practices, they have actionable next steps and begin to see measurable changes in the populations they serve. 

Image of Physician Utilizing Trauma-Responsive Youth Health Technology

Trauma-Responsive Health Technology 

Evidence-based, effective health technology is a key lever in the effort to identify and treat mental illness and mitigate other types risks in youth, like substance use. Effective health technology should ease provider documentation burden, integrate with other data systems, and allow for individual and population-level analysis to support tailored interventions. Let’s take a closer look at the necessary components of health technology designed with a trauma-responsive lens. 

Health technology designed with a trauma-responsive lens, like Possibilities For Change’s ΛDΛM,  facilitates universal screening and early identification and guides evidence-based, measurable interventions to prevent future instances of trauma. It helps professionals translate the research into practice, or move from trauma-informed principles to trauma-responsive practices. 

ΛDΛM is a first-in-nation health technology system designed by both clinical and technology experts to support youth and professionals with validated screening tools, brief interventions, provider actions, data integration, and a full analytics suite. With age- and risk-targeted screening tools, professionals who utilize ΛDΛM can customize their interventions according to youth response, ensuring that individuals have access to data-driven, tailored next steps.  

Trauma-responsive health technology should also adhere to the 5 key focus areas of evidence-based youth health programs recently identified by the Office of Population Affairs, including being medically accurate, equitable, inclusive, trauma-informed, and supporting positive youth development. 

✔ Medically Accurate

Health-technology that is trauma-responsive and evidence-based must be firmly rooted in medically accurate practices and language. ΛDΛM was designed by subject matter experts across clinical disciplines, including medicine, nursing, behavioral health, health education, public health and school-based health. Leaders in their field, these clinical experts ensure all of the questions in the screening tools and next-step guidance for tailored brief interventions are medically accurate and appropriate. 

✔ Equitable 

Disparities in identification and access to mental health treatment exist among vulnerable groups of youth. The CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System published its 2021 survey data recently and highlighted some of these disparities. Health technology designed with trauma-responsive lens must help professionals engage all youth in their care, including marginalized groups. 

With the option to read screening questions or have the technology read aloud the questions, ΛDΛM supports students with different levels of literacy and independence. Additionally, ΛDΛM facilitates the annual risk screening recommendations of the American Medical Association and several other key professional organizations. This helps ensure no at-risk youth go unnoticed. 

✔ Inclusive 

Trauma-responsive health technology that incorporates an inclusive design helps reduce youth cognitive load, increase engagement, and create an empathetic environment for completion. In ΛDΛM, questions are clear and understandable and include built-in support to check on the youth’s level of comfort after the screening. The language of the questions and images included in ΛDΛM’s screening tools are inclusive and welcoming of all. 

✔ Trauma-Informed & Trauma-Responsive 

ΛDΛM incorporates trauma-informed principles and helps professionals practice a trauma-responsive approach. ΛDΛM supports early identification of risk factors and risk behaviors with comprehensive, risk-prioritized, and evidence-based screening tools. The ACTion protocols, workflows, and next steps corresponding to survey results guide youth toward reducing and/or eliminating risk behaviors, thus decreasing likelihood of future occurrences of trauma. 

✔ Supportive Positive Youth Development

Finally, trauma-responsive health technology supports positive youth development by encouraging the adult-youth relationships that support youth making safer, healthier choices and growing in competence, confidence, and connection. ΛDΛM does just this. 

Ready to Meet ΛDΛM? – Trauma-Responsive Risk Screening & Brief Interventions 

Professionals across disciplines have been seeking to put the decades of research about trauma-informed care into practice, asking questions like –  

  • How can future occurrences of trauma be prevented? 
  • Does universal screening support early identification? 
  • What evidence-based interventions and resources are available? 
  • How can we adhere to the USPSTF recommendation for anxiety screening starting at age 8?  
  • How can we ensure equity and inclusion when screening and intervening across student and patient populations? 
  • What kinds of tools facilitate data & analytics to better understand risk and trends over time? 

And more. 
Get in touch today to learn how ΛDΛM can help your organization implement trauma-responsive practices.