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Behavioral health and telemedicine: What’s in store for 2022

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The United States is in the middle of a mental and behavioral healthcare crisis. There simply are not enough clinicians and therapists to go around as the pandemic and its stresses drag on.

The problem is worsened by geography – in rural America, such providers are even harder to find.

But technology has a huge role to play in lessening the crisis. Telemedicine technology can connect rural patients to psychiatrists in big urban hubs.

Eric Meier, CEO and president of Owl, a vendor of data-driven, evidence-based behavioral health technology, has his finger on the pulse of mental healthcare in the U.S. today. Healthcare IT News sat down with him to talk about the state of mental health today and the roles that different technologies can play to make sure everyone can access mental healthcare when they need it.

Q. What’s in store for behavioral health in 2022? What significant changes will there be this year?

A. In general, we will see broader adoption of behavioral health IT solutions in 2022. There will be a growing acceptance among providers and payers to embrace new technology offerings, particularly as we find ourselves in a COVID-centric era that is so dependent on telehealth and other digital tools to support behavioral health providers and the continued surge in patients seeking care.

We also will see greater use of data to assist in the management of patient care, which will help ensure quality and quicker patient recovery. With the goal of all behavioral health organizations to improve clinical outcomes, the best way to accomplish that objective is to collect and measure evidence-based data.

Data, derived from measurement-based care technology including assessments, patient intake forms, and social determinants of health insights and past history, is what ultimately informs clinicians and executives on care and if their treatment plans are working or if they need to make adjustments. With this information in hand, both providers and payers can be better aligned and understand the effectiveness and efficiency of care.

A top challenge in behavioral health has been increasing access to care, largely due to the increased demand of services throughout the pandemic. The question has been: How can we provide behavioral health services to everyone who needs it, regardless of location?

While this should and will remain a priority in 2022, there will be an additional focus moving forward on quality of care. After all, what is the purpose of providing access to care if quality of care isn’t addressed? Providers need to be asking themselves: Are people actually getting better through our behavioral health services, can we reduce readmissions, can we eliminate treatment failures?

Data will inform the providers and better equip them to effectively treat the patient population they serve. This year, more than ever, behavioral health organizations will measure quality using evidence-based data.

Q. What will be some major technology developments for behavioral health organizations this year?

A. There will be broader industry adoption of behavioral IT solutions that gather and utilize data to deliver quality care and improve outcomes.

Measurement-based care – defined as the practice of providing clinical care based upon client data collected throughout treatment – will gain popularity as more behavioral health organizations rely on this methodology to improve quality and consistency of care.

With their ultimate business goal to improve clinical outcomes, hospitals and health systems will further recognize that incorporating measurement-based care into their practices is the best way to confirm and document patient progress.

This year, there also will be a broader array of behavioral health clinical services available that will enable more personalized treatment pathways. Greater use of analytics to analyze patient populations will provide behavioral health organizations with the ability to deliver more personalized care that is tailored to the needs of an individual – for example, digital cognitive behavioral therapy.

But the only way to deliver more targeted care is to have a better understanding of the patient prior to treatment through proper screening, and to assess patient progress throughout the entire course of treatment to adjust treatment as needed.

Q. How will the conversation about telehealth in behavioral health evolve this year?

A. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we know that telehealth is here to stay. With that, the importance of ensuring that the quality of care is not compromised with this delivery approach is paramount.

In fact, our customers have measured their quality of care metrics – for example, severity reduction, average length of treatment – as a means to confirm this objective. Further, telehealth delivery of services has provided greater flexibility compared with in-person visits in many situations while reducing no-show rates.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, telehealth visits composed a third of behavioral health total visits in 2020, compared to 8% of visits to primary care providers and 3% of visits to other specialists.

These findings highlight an increased interest in seeking behavioral healthcare through telehealth. The report also indicates a 32-fold increase in behavioral healthcare encounters through telehealth throughout the pandemic.

As telehealth becomes more accepted as the main treatment approach, we will see a heightened focus on quality of care, which ultimately paves the path toward value-based care initiatives.

Q. What role does behavioral health IT have to support value-based care?

A. Let’s first clarify how the current fee-for-service scenario functions, and then compare it to what a value-based care model looks like.

In the current fee-for-service scenario, providers complete a service, bill for it, and later get reimbursed for that service. There is less emphasis on the value the services provide or whether or not a patient is improving. Therefore, the incentives for a provider may primarily focus on the quantity of services delivered.

With value-based care, the focus shifts to improving patient outcomes at the lowest cost of care. Providers are therefore incentivized to provide the most efficient and effective course of treatment so that patients can progress as quickly as possible. The biggest draw to value-based care: payer reimbursement and provider services are aligned to improve clinical outcomes.

Here is the link to behavioral health IT: In order to demonstrate value and quality in behavioral health, there needs to be greater emphasis on measuring outcomes with evidence-based data and exchanging that information between payers and providers.

Today, payers primarily rely upon claims data, which highlights the number of treatment sessions and emergency room visits. But this data does not focus on whether or not someone is getting better.

Data derived from a robust measurement-based care platform that gathers and analyzes outcomes data will provide the necessary information that is needed to truly understand how well a provider is performing in managing their population’s health.

Without measuring outcomes with evidence-based data, how can one show improvements? Another way to look at this is: How can one improve something they are not measuring? Data-driven measurement-based care platforms are key to the realization of value-based care because they clearly demonstrate a patient’s progress toward recovery.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT

Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

Source : Healthcare IT News

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