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How health systems are using technology to increase behavioural health access

November 15, 2018

    Behavioural health needs are highly prevalent, comorbid with other chronic conditions, and associated with increased clinical care and cost. Spending on behavioural health services is projected to reach roughly $239 billion in the US by 2020—that's 5.5% of total health spend. Elsewhere, mental health spending in the UK accounted for one in every ten pounds spent by the Department of Health in 2017/2018.

    Investing in behavioral health mobile apps? Keep these 3 considerations in mind.

    While behavioural health and physical health care often work in siloes, health systems are increasingly investing in improved access to behavioural health services. Mental health screenings and support in primary care and the ED are becoming increasingly prevalent.

    Increased funding for behavioural health data capture and virtual care

    We've also noticed an increased interest and investment in IT-enabled behavioural health care to scale access. In its 2018 Midyear Funding Review, Rock Health noted that behavioural health startups in the United States received more investment in H1 2018 than in any prior six-month period, with 15 companies receiving a cumulative US $273 million in funding. This trend is not limited to North America. We are seeing a similar uptick outside the United States too, with companies like Big White Wall and Be Mindful growing rapidly. There are various technologies available to help capture patient mental health data in near real time and on a daily basis.

    Providers are deploying technologies to engage patients in their own care, monitor response to treatment, and predict future needs. Virtual care, clinical referral and communication support, and self-management support are some of the major ways we've seen IT be deployed to facilitate improved behavioural health care. Here are some examples:

    Virtual care

    • Atrium Health established a centralised tele-mental health service unit that virtually links the health system's primary care offices and EDs with behavioural health experts. A pre/post-intervention analysis showed primary care patients experienced a decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms as well as avoidable hospitalisations, saving the system US $78,000. Virtual access in the ED decreased ED length-of-stay, too.

    • The University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies created a virtual reality-based exposure therapy tool called Bravemind. It allows clinicians to control, document, and measure patient responses in immersive environments. Bravemind has been used to assess and treat post-traumatic stress disorder for military veterans.

    Clinician referral and communication support

    • Intermountain Healthcare recently launched Alluceo, an independent company that integrates mental and behavioural health care into primary care using a digital communication platform and a team-based care model. It enables a patient's care team to communicate remotely regarding a patient's care.

    • Similarly, Quartet Health, Lyra Health, and have created technology platforms to connect mental health and primary care providers, patients, and employers for more collaborative care. These companies use machine learning algorithms to match patients with mental health providers and can facilitate both virtual and in-person therapy sessions. Digital coaching and self-guided therapy through mobile apps is another component to these platforms.

    Self-management support

    • Valera Health developed an app allowing patients to self-monitor behavioural health symptoms, stay in touch with care managers and providers, and access educational resources. Within one year of their partnership, Montefiore in New York saw promising results with improved symptoms and remission rates of internalising disorders, and increased care manager contacts among participating patients.

    • myStrength is a mobile and web-based self-care platform vendor providing education and coping skill development tools for self-motivated patients with behavioural health needs. The platform uses machine learning algorithms to individualise the patient experience based on preferences. Participating health systems have seen improved health outcomes and reduced cost for enroled patients.

    What's new in chronic disease management?

    In an era where value-based care is increasingly prominent and multimorbidity is on the rise, robust and holistic chronic disease management is more important than ever. Our current research on activating high-risk patients aims at solving this problem. If you are making headway in your high-risk patient management, we would love to hear from you. Email to connect with an expert.

    Investing in behavioral health mobile apps? Keep these 3 considerations in mind.

    There are a wide range of behavioral health apps out there that aim to extend the reach of behavioral health support. However, organizations that want to use IT to identify, assess, and treat behavioral health needs should keep these three considerations in mind. Read on to learn 3 strategies for investing in behavioral health mobile apps.

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