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  • Zach Johnson

Northbound Treatment saves hundreds of hours, improves patient safety.

Case Study: Northbound Treatment RTC + VisibleHand Safety Checks.

Photo of Northbound exterior

Residential treatment centers (RTCs) are constantly trying to do more with less. Treating higher acuity patients in greater numbers while facing workforce challenges make it difficult to maintain high quality care. How, then, did Northbound Treatment save hundreds of manager-hours while improving the quality & consistency of their patient safety checks? This case study explores how Northbound Treatment, a leading addiction treatment center improved patient safety by partnering with VisibleHand, a pioneer in patient safety technology.


About Northbound Treatment:

Northbound is a nationally recognized 112-bed treatment center based in Orange County, California, offering comprehensive and personalized care for individuals battling addiction and mental health challenges. In operation for over 30 years, Northbound, an NAATP member backed by The Joint Commission’s “Gold Seal of Approval”, has consistently upheld its commitment to providing superior quality care. This commitment to patient safety is an integral aspect of their operations, as explained by Ian Thiel, Operations Supervisor, "We have a duty to our clients' safety, and we take it seriously."

Patient Safety Challenges at Northbound:

“Really, the big challenge was just knowing that our rounds were being completed on time and accurately. We came from paper rounds where you always had to wonder, are these rounds actually being done face to face with our clients?” - Craig Sterner, Sr. Operations Director.

Unverified Safety Checks

Northbound previously depended on a paper-based system for their safety checks, which presented several challenges. Ian recalls, "We had a paper log, and the techs would have to write down what time they did the check, and then initial it." This approach was not only time-consuming but also prone to human error and lacked accountability. As Craig Sterner, points out, "This isn’t specific to Northbound, but any program is always one incident away from being shut down because of a falsified round."

Inefficient Safety Checks

In addition to the risks associated with the paper-based system, the process of manually recording safety checks was cumbersome and inefficient. It was difficult for health techs to work as a team, instead, each health tech was assigned specific patients to check on, which is much less efficient than a team-based “zone defense” safety approach.

Hard-to-Measure Safety Checks

Finally, the lack of real-time tracking and analytics made it difficult for managers to identify patterns or trends that could be used to improve patient care. This leads to whack-a-mole accountability and makes it difficult to solve the root problem. “I would have to sift through binders full of giant stacks of paper, or spend hours in the camera room trying to figure out what was going on,” said Ian.

Photo of Northbound Exterior, Northbound fire pit, Northbound gym

Northbound Looks for a Solution

To address these concerns, Northbound began exploring digital solutions that could streamline their safety check process, improve accountability, and ensure patient safety. They required a system that met criteria:

  1. User-friendly

  2. Efficient

  3. Real-time tracking and analysis of safety checks.

  4. Positive ROI: cost-to-value ratio.

The ideal solution would also need to:

  1. Be easy to adopt into their existing workflows.

  2. Minimize disruptions to their operations, ensuring a smooth transition for both staff and patients.

  3. Provide robust reporting capabilities, to identify issues and improve quickly.

  4. Have a solid reputation in the industry.

Why did Northbound choose VisibleHand?

Features: ✅

After evaluating various solutions, Northbound elected to try the VisibleHand mobile rounding solution on one unit, and then expand to more units if they liked it. The solution met their requirements (user-friendly, efficient, real-time, etc.) but also offered features designed specifically for treatment centers. For example, the platform provided real-time notifications and alerts, reminding the health techs to keep on top of their rounds.

In addition, the system's reporting capabilities allowed Northbound to easily monitor and analyze the performance of their safety checks which was one of their biggest previous challenges.

Word-of-Mouth / Industry Reputation: ✅

Another major influence that led Northbound to select VisibleHand was the recommendation from peers. Craig reflects, “We found VisibleHand through word of mouth. Talking with other treatment centers and hearing about their success and the ease of transition into this system and the benefits they were seeing. The different featuers that VisibleHand offers were enticing and the reviews we were getting from these other treatment centers and facilities who have integrated the tool really pushed us into those early stages. We started the program in our Detox unit and saw great results right away. And then, more recently we expanded it to our Residential program. It just fits so well with our program and the acuity of our clients.”

After a few months using VisibleHand on their Detox unit, Northbound decided to expand the system program-wide and has gone on to recommend the VisibleHand system to other treatment centers.

Photo of Northbound Exterior, Northbound Patient Room, Northbound Patio Area

Results and Outcomes // VisibleHand at Northbound

The introduction of the VisibleHand system had an impact from day one.

"We have seen a drastic reduction in our time spent: Monitoring rounds [real-time] Verifying rounds [auditing] Investigating safety situations Plus: Improved staff-to-patient contact Reduced safety events Targeted staff training & intervention" - Craig Sterner

VisibleHand brought about a significant improvement in patient safety, a critical aspect of Northbound's services. By providing a real-time platform for recording and analyzing safety checks, VisibleHand enabled Northbound to quickly identify patterns and trends to improve patient care.

“We saw the benefit immediately. We could get rid of those giant paper binders. I also got huge value when VisibleHand helped me work through a problem I was having with my overnight staff. They gave me a report that helped me solve problems in an extremely efficient manner. [...] In just minutes I could figure out where the issue was. That was awesome. It was amazing to be able to figure out problems without spending 8, 10, 12 hours looking at cameras trying to connect the dots. That's invaluable to me.” - Ian Thiel

"We've been able to reduce the potential of a missed round, which in our world, could mean life or death," says Craig, emphasizing the system's impact on patient safety. The confidence that comes with knowing their patients are continually monitored and cared for has been a game changer at Northbound.

Photo of Northbound Treatment Flyer

Conclusion & Next Steps

Northbound has transformed its safety check process, resulting in improved accountability, efficiency, and, most importantly, patient safety.

This case study illustrates the power of technology in enhancing healthcare services and ensuring the safety of patients. By choosing VisibleHand, Northbound has gained a solution and a partner dedicated to their mission of providing the highest level of care for their patients. As healthcare continues to evolve, such partnerships are crucial in driving improvements in patient safety and quality of care.

“The return is staff accountability and more time caring for our clients. Any treatment center could be one incident away from being shut down because of a falsified round. Now we have the peace of mind that our clients feel safe and are getting the care and supervision that they deserve.” - Craig

Northbound is now expanding their partnership with VisibleHand to include proximity-verified Environment of Care (EOC) rounds.

Bonus feedback from Northbound:

Team Competition

“Being able to share the results with our staff almost became a team competition. I remember in the beginning, the Detox team was like, “Oh, I'm only 92% and this other guy is over 99%.” It created a fun little atmosphere right out of the gate.” - Craig Sterner

VisibleHand Customer Support

"Customer support has been fantastic. I do have to say, because I work weekends I’m used to not hearing back from vendors. With VisibleHand, I shot the helpdesk an email and it was answered like 20 minutes later, even though it's a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday morning. It's been fantastic. If I need something changed or updated, it's answered almost immediately. One of their executives visited our program, he sat down and helped me find more efficient ways to use VisibleHand for my workflows as a manager. That personal touch has been extremely helpful because I talked to friends that work at other treatment centers and they're spending so much time with rounds. For me, this is all taken care of and I get to focus on other things. My whole day isn't consumed by the integrity of the rounds because I have support trying to help me figure things out. It was fantastic." - Ian Thiel

State Survey:

“This is something that we take pride in. Last year, when the State came through, I think we had a surveyor who hadn’t seen VisibleHand yet. When we were showing them the dashboard and the devices and how we've improved our safety measures and gone above their recommendation, they really had no questions for us. Like, “This is above and beyond. We're good here.”” - Craig Sterner


Northbound Treatment and VisibleHand logos

For more about Northbound Treatment:

For more about VisibleHand:


Photo of Craig Sterner

Craig Sterner, Sr. Operations Director, Northbound Treatment:

Photo of Ian Thiel

Ian Thiel, Operations Manager, Northbound Treatment:

Photo of Zach Johnson, VisibleHand

Zach Johnson, VP Business Development, VisibleHand:



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