Bridging the disconnect in behavioral health: solutions for the 21st century patient
According to SAMHSA and the CDC, more than 1 in 4 Americans will experience some form of mental illness in any given year, with national expenditures now over $240 billion. However, behavioral health has lagged compared to other areas in advancing technology into the workflow of providers and ultimately assisting in serving patient needs. Given the increase in digital health solutions on the market, digital behavioral health is now in a position to expand treatment and accessibility of recovery-related services in ways that augment or complement traditional systems of care delivery. Ranging from teletherapy to digitizing outcomes measurement, providers can now utilize technology across their entire population of patients.
Research studies from Northwestern University and Dartmouth College show web-based interventions have a high degree of efficacy across a wide spectrum of mental health outcomes, while mobile technologies have received limited attention for outcomes. Taken further, solutions tested in research settings are only now becoming commercially available, either directly to patients-as-consumers or through health plans and care providers. This trend has created a disconnect in providers, administrators, and patients understanding the reach and adherence of digital treatment and intervention techniques, along with their associated costs and barriers to adoption. In particular, due to the lack of scalable technologies to date, improvements in treatment models and delivery mechanisms have been agonizingly slow.
Given the shift in the regulatory environment as a result of mental health parity legislation, along with recent advances in technology, behavioral health sits at a crossroads. The rise of digital health solutions focused on serving behavioral health providers represents one of the largest shifts in clinical workflows over the past several decades. Numerous questions and opportunities abound, including:
1) How to engage (and stay engaged) with the behavioral health population
2) Bringing digital health to a pen-and-paper based practice
3) The collection and analysis of behavioral health data
4) Patient privacy safeguards and data sharing
5) Using digital health solutions to integrate behavioral health into primary care
6) Assessing the clinical validity of solutions being taken to market
7) The impact of teletherapy with rural / distance / under-served populations
The benefits and challenges of utilizing such solutions in a behavioral health setting will be highlighted, along with successful examples of integrating such tools into a provider workflow. Digital health companies working to apply these technologies will discuss ways of demonstrating effectiveness and usefulness, along with what the future may hold for patients and providers alike.