Mental and behavioral health are critical concerns in the healthcare landscape, and even with all the good work that’s been done to date, we have a long way to go when it comes to delivering consistent, quality treatment to individuals living with such disorders. In fact, according to the Mental Illness Policy Organization, “About 50% of individuals with severe psychiatric disorders are receiving no treatment.” This equates to approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. That number skyrockets when you take into account patients with behavioral and mental health issues not categorized as “severe.” Add to this that even for those receiving care, the no-show rate for scheduled appointments can sometimes be as high as 40%, introducing considerable issues around the consistency of care. The time between appointments can also introduce significant risk as providers struggle to coordinate care and keep patients in successful patterns.
Despite these difficulties, there is also a lot of reason for optimism, as today’s digitally connected world provides great opportunity for those who need care to access it.
As we move to a more mobile-focused world, mobility provides a truly great opportunity for access to and delivery of mental and behavioral health treatment. Two keys to unlocking this potential are found in the use of telehealth and mobile apps, which work hand-in-hand to provide clinicians with a 360-degree view of the patient. Let’s explore how these two elements work together to provide truly individualized care that meets patients where they are to produce successful outcomes.
Telehealth changes everything
Telehealth is a game-changing technology when it comes to the delivery of mental and behavioral health treatment. A high patient no-show rate is one of the primary hurdles to the frequent and consistent care that is critical for effective treatment to take place. The time between appointments itself introduces risk to the patient, and, if that time is increased due to patient no-shows, the risk is also increased.
Some telehealth services enable clinicians to provide consistent and frequent care, in particular when addressing the issue of no-shows. For example, when a patient informs a facility that he or she will not make an appointment—even if that individual calls at the last minute—the provider can propose and immediately launch a virtual session. With a completely HIPAA-compliant telemedicine experience, providers are able to deliver care virtually and at a moment’s notice and be reimbursed for the session rather than having a non-revenue event.
Telemedicine is not just valuable for lowering no-show rates; it also provides an opportunity to enhance access to care. For patients experiencing poverty, in a crisis episode, or living in rural areas, the convenience and cost of travel to and from an appointment can be a major deterrent to receiving care. Some simply may not be able to afford the trip, and for others the nearest facility may be hours away. These patients understandably often receive no care at all. Telemedicine can completely turn this around. Now there is an option for these patients to get the care they need, in their own homes, during a lunch break at work, or at myriad other times or places that fit their schedule. This incredible ability to meet patients when it’s most convenient for them allows clinicians to provide access to more patients than ever before. Telehealth expands both provider and patient access to health care.
Mobile apps foster engagement
So many transactions are available as mobile apps today. You can order your morning coffee, pay your credit card, and watch TV, all from mobile apps. Our phones are never far from us, giving us an incredible opportunity to use this reliance on mobile devices to bridge the time between in-person appointments while also allowing providers to further personalize treatment plans.
By using an integrated digital treatment platform directly in a mobile app, patients can fully immerse themselves in their own treatment plans. The content provided can include health-literacy courses; access to social determinants of health; surveys; a patient’s goals, health assessments, appointments, and activities; and other related resources designed to deliver real-time patient care and generate ongoing feedback. The logic embedded in the assessment tools can trigger alerts and actions required of clinical staff. In essence, this creates a virtual cycle of feedback between patients and clinicians that keeps everyone engaged between appointments, helping to create successful outcomes.
Additionally, the platform can also flag words that indicate risk, such as “suicide,” and immediately alert clinical staff that action is required based on the identified risk word. Providers are then able to intervene at the exact moment when patients need it, without having to rely on the patient to call for help or wait until their next appointment.
A 360-degree view improves outcomes
By leveraging both telehealth services and mobile apps, clinicians can “surround” patients with care, ultimately improving outcomes. A mobile app allows patients to stay connected and work on their treatment on a daily basis, while providers can intervene when notified of risk factors, schedule a telemedicine call to prevent a no-show, or provide a valuable resource to a patient. A truly 360-degree view of a patient’s journey through treatment has long been sought, but has been just beyond reach. However, in today’s world, the possibility of truly encircling patients with care is a reality.
Mental and behavioral health issues are difficult to solve and there is no silver bullet; every patient is different, every trauma is unique, and every situation requires individualized attention. However, by leveraging today’s technology and focusing on mobile advancements, we are better able to confront the issue in a way that can create long-lasting and impactful change and help millions of people.
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