Why Connected Health is Driving Mental Health Services

Mental health is a growing concern. The percentage of Americans suffering from some form of mental health condition increased from 17.9% in 2015 to 20.6% in 2019.  Prior to 2015, the figure had been consistent for seven years.  Even more troubling is the fact that less than 48% of those adults received treatment for their conditions, and about a quarter recognize they need treatment but have been unable to get it.

Since March of 2020, though, the situation worsened as the number of people taking anxiety and depression screenings jumped by 93% and 62% respectively. In September, 37% of people taking mental health screens experienced frequent suicidal ideations.  The increase shouldn’t be surprising, given the isolation and lack of social interaction throughout most of 2020.

But, as it has in other areas of healthcare, connected health has created new opportunities for care, and many patients have been able to seek or continue treatment thanks to the increased availability of telehealth services.  As in-person interactions were shut down in 2020, 81% of behavioral health providers launched new telehealth services.  Looking forward, 94% of behavioral health providers want to continue offering telehealth services.

Behavioral health patients, in fact, led the way in terms of telehealth usage.  While patients with pre-existing physical health conditions have leveraged telehealth more frequently (43%), behavioral health interactions have been more prevalent at a 54% rate – an increase of 39% from prior reports.

Does it work?  According to providers, it does.  Overwhelmingly,  behavioral health providers believe telehealth platforms have no negative impact on treatment effectiveness, and more than a third say it actually improves results.

Specifically, behavioral and mental health providers say telehealth has:

  • Improved patient health (71%)
  • Improved patient safety (83%)
  • Improved timeliness of care (85%)
  • Improved access to care (72%)
  • Reduced cost of care for patients (48%), with an additional 34% saying it neither increased nor decreased costs
  • Been received favorably by patients (83%)

Based on the results, it’s not surprising that almost half of patients want to continue using telehealth going forward, even if in-person appointments are available, given the benefits.

Access to Care

Connected health tools remove geographic barriers and can enable patients to seek treatment from providers anywhere, whether they are located at a distance or because in-person appointments are not available. This can also drive new revenue opportunities for providers, who can access a customer base beyond their traditional geographic boundaries.

Convenient Scheduling

Telehealth visits can allow patients and providers to engage from anywhere. Patients can have more flexibility in scheduling because they don’t have to factor in commuting time, and can eve have sessions during work hours, if needed.  Likewise, providers have more freedom to schedule appointments. In fact, 86% of behavioral and mental health providers have conducted telehealth visits from their homes.

Stigma Reduction

One of the fears patients have is the stigma that has traditionally been attached to mental health issues. Telehealth visits can help overcome that challenge by enabling treatment from the privacy of a home or office, without anyone else knowing they are receiving support for mental health conditions. As a result, many may be more willing to seek treatment.

Crisis Management

When patients experience crises – severe anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or other major situations – telehealth can provide access to providers, who can provide immediate intervention to reduce any imminent threat.

Collaborative Care

Connected health tools can enable behavioral health providers to interact efficiently and share patient information with other care providers to ensure consistency of treatment, medication management, and to generally communicate any concerns about patient conditions to help drive the best possible care.

There’s no question that behavioral health is a challenge – and it doesn’t always receive the same attention as other health conditions. Connected health solutions can allow providers to offer an alternative to traditional in-person visits to either supplement or replace in-person treatment. Based on recent evidence, patients and providers both see value in making mental health care more accessible through telehealth.

To learn more about the opportunities to improve care delivery through connected health tools, not only for behavioral health needs, but across healthcare segments, connect with us here.