The American Medical Association, in conjunction with Manatt Health, published a report this week exploring the ways that virtual care and other digital tools can accelerate the adoption of the integrated delivery of behavioral and physical healthcare.
In the report, the organizations note that behavioral health integration is essential for solving the country’s dire need for access to services.
“The demand for behavioral health services is significant and rising, but so is the potential for digital technology to support the integrated delivery of physical and behavioral health services,” said AMA President Dr. Gerald Harmon in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
The organizations convened a diverse working group to develop the report, which proposed a set of solutions that stakeholders can pursue in order to implement a sustainable behavioral health integration model.
“While not a panacea, the incorporation of technology into BHI care models (i.e., digitally enabled BHI), such as telehealth and other digital tools, could enhance the effectiveness and accelerate the adoption of BHI,” read the report.
From digital intake and screening tools, to referral technology, to remote patient monitoring software, the report noted several solutions that can support and add value to BHI along the patient journey.
It included specific steps for stakeholder groups to take:
- Physician practices and health systems can incorporate evidence-based digital health solutions and enable technology into standard workflows, thus upping behavioral health diagnosis and treatment rates
- Health plans can expand coverage and fair payment with a margin for all stakeholders utilizing the Collaborative Care Model and other BHI models
- Federal policymakers could increase federal funding for efforts – such as loan forgiveness and new residency and training programs – in an effort to grow the workforce
- Employers can reduce out-of-pocket costs for employees seeking care by evaluating how and when to apply cost-sharing
- Private or publicly traded behavioral health companies can work with stakeholders to develop national standards for BHI technologies, thereby generating robust clinical and economic evidence for digitally enabled BHI
“All stakeholders have a critical role to play in making accessible and equitable treatment that addresses peoples’ behavioral and physical health needs a more standard practice within primary care,” read the report.
Of course, limitations exist for using technology within BHI, including the necessity of the longitudinal patient-provider relationship; a lack of robust clinical or economic evidence; inequitable community access to connectivity or broadband; and clinical inappropriateness for some patients.
“The evolution toward digitally enabled BHI models that incorporate the use of technology has the potential to accelerate BHI adoption and impact; however, technology is only one part of the solution needed to meaningfully drive adoption of sustainable BHI,” read the report.
THE LARGER TREND
Behavioral health has consistently emerged as a specialty that has particularly benefited from the advent of telemedicine – and the uptick in patient need – amidst COVID-19.
This past September, Array Behavioral Care Founder and Chief Medical Officer Dr. James R. Varrell told Healthcare IT News that telepsychiatry can help to fill the gap between demand and supply for behavioral health patients.
“Establishing a relationship with telepsychiatry clinicians can empower providers across the care continuum with the support and information they need to fully manage the health of their patient population,” he said.
ON THE RECORD
“The AMA is committed to accessible and equitable treatment for behavioral and physical health needs, and appropriate use of digital health technology can drive behavioral health integration, particularly at [times] of increased psychological distress and trauma,” said Harmon.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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