Hello savvy readers.
We hope you are doing great, are actively participating in the year-end chores (perhaps: vacations, holidays, shopping, travel etc.) and, of course, getting ready for & planning your New Year goals! Whatever personal and professional goals you set for yourself, we hope you choose healthier options that could help boost your life and the lives of others in your community in a positive way!
We would like to comment on an important topic that is crucial for the health and well being of every individual and the society at large, in the United States as well as in other parts of the world. The issue at hand is how to streamline access to scarce mental & behavioral health resources for patients who are struggling to find such resources. Efficient access to mental & behavioral health services means healthy Patients and tremendous cost savings to the healthcare system! We highlight the problem, some solutions and suggestions as to how the AppointmentNotify Platform could be a beneficial tool to bridge the gap in connecting Patients with the resources offering mental and behavioral health services.
Healthy living means not just staying physically healthy but having good mental health as well!
Mental Health: What’s at stake?
Let’s take a look at the extent of the problem spanning the Mental and Behavioral Health space in the U.S. as an example.
The above are concerning facts. Unfortunately, there are many more including:
Dr. Anne Zink, MD, Medical Director for Emergency Medicine at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center in Palmer, Alaska, wrote a really good article highlighting the issues plaguing mental health with a number of practical solutions that could benefit the Patients as well as the Healthcare Providers. To say the least, mental health delivery is currently in crisis mode actively draining the limited healthcare resources and costing the system billions of dollars in unnecessary and wasted spending. Acute care settings such as Hospital Emergency Rooms (ERs) are getting bombarded by under served behavioral health Patients who are looking for a quick fix solution to a problem that is, to some extent, chronic in nature and requires personalized psychiatric interventions over a longer period of time preferably outside ERs. Innovation and Technology can help offer Platforms and tools that let Providers collaborate and communicate with each other and with Patients across the full continuum of care in real-time to minimize delays and produce cost-effective results.
Primary Care not the Hospital ER: A Possible Solution to curb Mental Health Crisis
According to this Modern Healthcare article, Integrating behavioral health services within primary care settings is now seen as a good alternative to serving the rising number of patients seeking mental healthcare. Mental Health screenings during a primary care visit can identify patients suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. Quick referrals and appointments with specialists can prevent more severe health issues down the road. The article further highlights that diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions in the primary care setting helps alleviate a related problem which is the reluctance by Patients to admit they have such a problem to begin with. Social stigma induced in the society still poses barriers to access mental health services despite advances in laws and expanded health insurance coverage.
Only time will tell whether or not the Primary Care setting is able to help reduce the influx of Patients to Hospital ERs and whether mental and behavioral healthcare services can be delivered more effectively and efficiently in such settings.
Program to reduce EMS trips for high-volume [mental health] patients
Some communities are taking a more proactive approach to efficiently utilize the scarce and high-cost acute care resources. A good example to cite here is that used in Longview, TX where emergency and mental health authorities are building toward a multiagency pilot program aimed at high-volume patients use of local ambulance services. That particular approach involves using in-home assessments to identify the needs of patients with the highest number of ambulance trips to local emergency rooms and other health centers. The program targets people who call for emergency services with issues that can be served by a number of other agencies besides an ER visit.
The Longview health systems and the fire department’s Emergency Medical Services Division are collaborating on this approach. As cited by the Longview EMS Section Chief Amy Dodgen:
…the goal of the program is to determine if the patient might, instead, need social, mental health or other services for issues not physical in nature. Those issues could be anxiety over where their next meal might come from or how they’ll pay a utility bill, which is why several social service agencies are involved in the program, Dodgen said.
Such local community efforts could definitely help Patients seek necessary care in less costly, more convenient and timely settings instead of requiring emergency room visits.
Mental health therapy at Walmart
Beacon Health Options, a Boston-based healthcare Provider, recently became the first Provider to open a small clinic at a Walmart store in Carrollton, Texas. The company plans to roll out the program in other retail locations nationwide, with the goal of increasing access to mental health care. This Boston Globe article provides the details you can review including criticism on the Provider’s ability to improve access to mental health, however, new and innovative approaches are sure to be experimented outside ER, Primary care and other outpatient settings to diagnose and treat mental illness. In the case of Beacon Health Options, the new retail clinic offers treatment for anxiety, depression, grief, relationship issues, and the stresses of everyday living. Patients can walk in to request an appointment or sign up online or over the phone.
How can AppointmentNotify help expand access to Mental Healthcare?
We have cited some examples above showing access to mental healthcare is lagging behind (severely) in the U.S. and its direct (costly) impact to the healthcare system. Though efforts are underway to expand access to mental and behavioral health services at the Federal, State and Local level, the magnitude of issues and the amount of effort required to fix is undoubtedly massive. The short supply of mental health professionals and projections that demand will outpace supply is also of concern to substantially curb this problem.
The AppointmentNotify Platform was designed and developed with the sole purpose of expanding access to healthcare, and to reduce the time to seek routine care with the Providers Patients want to see. Though this Platform is agnostic to the medical specialty using it, its benefits to mental healthcare are hard to discount. The Platform is a means to connect Patients with their Providers quickly, easily and efficiently because we believe that nothing can help a Patient get better sooner than seeing his or her doctor sooner. In addition to getting mental health Patients a simple technology solution to seek sooner care with mental health Professionals, this Platform allows real-time communication between the Patients and their Providers; something that could immensely speed up treatment and produce more effective results for Patients. Beyond that, this Platform can easily adapt to and offer core care related services such as Mental Health Assessments which could help diagnose illnesses sooner. Research shows that getting help early can prevent symptoms from getting worse and make a full recovery more likely, therefore, helping Patients, Families, Communities and the Providers along with saving significant amount of $$$ from our annual healthcare spending.
We are big fan of social media to advocate for Patient’s rights. We found the below comments on the Facebook page of a Mental Health Provider where multiple Patients had expressed concerns in the past related to the lack of access and satisfaction when attempting to seek care from the Provider. We suspect such issues are more common across the Mental Health Provider spectrum and that an average Patient suffering from mental illness is not able to seek care in time and to satisfaction to prevent deteriorating health conditions down the road. The AppointmentNotify solution could be a good option to bridge that gap to seek Mental Healthcare.
Feel free to reach out to us if you are interested in learning more about the AppointmentNotify Platform and our vision to make access to Mental Healthcare within an average Patient’s reach. We are offering FREE Beta Pilot trial opportunity to Providers. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org to sign-up.
Enjoy December festivities and above all stay healthy!
We shall be back with another post soon before the end of 2018! 🙂