Measurement-based Care & Its Impact on The Future of Behavioral Health

by John Anderson, on Nov 23, 2021 1:28:01 PM

The demand for behavioral health services has been on the rise for many years and has grown exponentially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent January 2021 report, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found 41.1% of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from previous reports of 11.0% of between January-June 2019. While this data alone is troubling, furthering the concern is the currently high healthcare employee turnover and projected shortage of behavioral health clinicians to manage the growing need of behavioral health services. The National Council for Behavioral Health reports that 77% of U.S. counties are experiencing a shortage in behavioral health clinicians, and the problem is expected to worsen.

Resource: Read our ebook "The Future of Tech in Behavioral Health Services & Delivery" for an in-depth report on BH trends, challenges, and solutions to issues the healthcare industry is currently facing as a result of the pandemic.

To combat this crisis, more and more healthcare providers are adopting new and emerging technologies with purposeful design and capabilities that fit their needs. Many argue that this technology adoption was already happening, it’s just been accelerated based on the factors mentioned above.

What Kind of Behavioral Health Tech are We Talking About?

As we’ve previously discussed, digital transformation in behavioral health, especially during the pandemic, has skyrocketed. Specifically, the usage of telehealth has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic and this holds true on the behavioral health side as well as the medical side. Along with telehealth, behavioral health providers are leveraging measurement-based care (MBC) tools to help alleviate the issue of provider shortages and lessen the burden on clinicians.

Mobile applications, specifically telehealth platforms, provide individuals with access to behavioral health services from anywhere. Many of these applications also allow individuals to share information on how they are feeling, using standard behavioral health measures, ahead of their visit. A clinical snapshot of how the patient is feeling before they enter their therapy session gives their clinician critical patient details and an opportunity to provide a more tailored therapy session.

Measurement-based Care: The Future of Behavioral Health Technology

Measurement-based care is defined as dynamic clinical practice in which care decisions are based on behavioral health patient data collected routinely throughout treatment. Historically, measurement-based care has been specific to medical care. When a patient goes for a primary care appointment, blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol are generally considered standard measures to help inform a patient’s overall health.

Behavioral health clinicians have not relied on a corresponding set of behavioral health-related measures because they haven’t historically existed. Behavioral health conditions generally do not present with physical symptoms, they present with emotional symptoms, making finite measurements harder to obtain. While this will not change moving forward, the abundance of patient data, and the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have paved the way for integrating measurement-based care with behavioral healthcare. Although MBC is still in its infancy, it is perceived as the future of behavioral health and will transform the way patients are managed and treated.

Why is Measurement-based Care Critical to the Future of Behavioral Health?

With an already strained clinical workforce, lessening the burden of behavioral health clinicians through MBC can help offset the shortage of behavioral health clinicians. MBC provides a snapshot of key measures that inform a patient’s overall mental well-being and allow clinicians to home in on the most appropriate therapy, faster.

During therapy sessions, clinicians spend less time ‘information gathering’ and more time on personalized treatment. The impact of MBC in behavioral health tech has the potential to be felt across the care paradigm. Behavioral health patients receive more tailored treatment based on their specific needs, clinicians are supported with concrete metrics to inform and manage treatment, and both clinicians and payers have an avenue to develop more robust value-based care contracts that emphasize outcomes, and not volume of services.

While it is still in its infancy, the usage of MBC in behavioral health has had a significant impact across the behavioral health care paradigm for clinicians, patients, and payers. For providers, MBC provides an avenue to better measure treatment progress and patient outcomes with tangible metrics. Clinicians are aided by intelligent tools that help inform treatment decisions, and treatment progress is more easily measured.

Support of clinicians with these tools has the potential to alleviate provider burnout allowing more clinicians to stay in the workforce longer. For patients, therapy sessions are spent focusing on treatment and outcomes, with less time spent on information gathering. Additionally, patients feel more engaged in their treatment because progress is being measured. Finally, for payers, the data obtained through MBC can support both population health management and individual patient management.

What Challenges Still Need to Be Addressed in the Near Future in Behavioral Health?

MBC is not yet widely adopted across behavioral health. Many clinicians are reluctant to adopt MBC, particularly if they don’t recognize a need to use the MBC tools available. There are concerns about maintaining quality of care and a lack of trust in technology to ensure all clinical symptoms are recognized.

Since MBC is still in its early stage for behavioral health, it must remain highly scrutinized by all stakeholders. To ensure quality of care is maintained (or ideally improved), clinicians, payers, and patients alike must remain focused on the end goal of the well-being and overall behavioral health of patients.

To learn more about the shift in behavioral health as a result of the pandemic and solutions to combat resource shortages and BH challenges, check out our ebook "The Future of Tech in Behavioral Health Services & Delivery".

Topics:Digital TransformationPlatform Design EngineeringHealthcare Transformation

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