Mental Health’s Strongest Ally: Behavioral Health Integration | Mental Health America

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Mental Health’s Strongest Ally: Behavioral Health Integration

By Ellen McGeoch, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships at NeuroFlow

Public sentiment around mental health is nearing a crescendo. With celebrity advocates and professional athletes rallying around the cause, we are finally able to marry decades of research with reality.

This has allowed for dozens of dedicated clinical researchers, including leaders at the American Psychological Association, to utilize big data and uncover the necessity for new models of care. Conclusions drawn by recent studies point to the immediate benefits of behavioral health integration, known through the process of “collaborative care.”

While many of these principles have been tucked away for years, a reignited interest is driving support and leading to the application of these theories in common practice.

That’s where the real return on investment exists: getting mental health consumers to embrace technology solutions for mental wellness.

Primary care providers (PCPs) are beginning to utilize evidence-based approaches to reach more consumers. This is a path towards a new standard of care, and ultimately better health outcomes. The industry will never be truly in alignment until a set of universal metrics are acknowledged and benchmarked against. We are currently in the “pre-thermometer era” of behavioral health, with no gauge to measure the impact of treatment. Before the emergence of behavioral health integration and collaborative care, clinical decision-making was skewed on a case-by-base or provider-by-provider basis.

The modern methodology is shifting, in part due to the proliferation of technology and software-based platforms with some of these aforementioned parameters. Both quantitative and qualitative data shared through “two-way” remote communication is allowing clinicians to interpret more continuous, real-world data. It’s an unmatched level of care in which negative trends can be quickly spotted, and positive patterns can be identified and lauded.

With this foundation in place, and a rapidly-increasing adoption rate, providers can begin to chart long-term, measurement-based care in conjunction with the integration of these tools. The goal is to accommodate larger populations, to lower unnecessary health care utilization and costs, and to get mental health consumers to feel better faster.

The “metrics that matter” for consumers with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and loneliness, can be tracked through quick mood surveys, journaling/digital documentation on an app, the reinforcement of positive behavior with rewards and incentives and other stress variables (i.e. a heart rate during mindfulness sessions).

Technology has not only empowered the provider side of the industry but has enabled mental health consumers to reach out for support. Clinicians can assign remote exercises and check the progress of mental health consumers in a matter of seconds. This monitoring is critical to steadying the mental health consumers retention rate for both behavioral and medical treatment at health systems. By building on positive behaviors, mental health consumers are encouraged to continue the process and cross the finish line at a full sprint. It’s revolutionary for the clinician-mental health consumer relationship to be synchronized, as short-lived provider visits are just an extension of the work being put in – on both ends – during the lifespan of treatment.

While there are still challenges to stare down with the collaborative care model, the promise is too great to ignore. Large-scale health networks will need to adopt innovative tools to embrace this methodology, even though resistance still exists. Workflows will need to change, providers must adjust, and the insurance landscape must mature as well.

However, this should not deter PCPs and health providers from joining forces with technology companies. Integration has become systematic, and providers will find these tools to be second nature once “online” and data logging begins.

The future is in our hands – literally glowing at our fingertips. It’s time to collaboratively respond to the modern challenges of mental health, with a manuscript we’ve had for years and emerging technology solutions that have made a complex process remarkably simple.

American Psychological Association’s Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine Report


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