In a perfect world, we would all have healthcare that covered 100% of our needs. Until that time, many organizations are working to close gaps in healthcare delivery.
Those with chronic conditions often face gaps in care due to having to see several doctors, resulting in poor physician-to-physician communication and conflicting information given to the patient. In addition to preventing the relief and treatment of these conditions, this care gap also has a major financial impact. Those with chronic conditions in the U.S. are responsible for a whopping 86% of healthcare costs. That’s not surprising when you consider that 60% of Americans have a chronic disease.
Some chronic conditions carry higher lifetime costs than others. For example, research shows that an employed person with major depression has average annual healthcare costs of $10,836. In comparison, a person taking insulin for diabetes may spend $4,800 annually to manage their diabetes.
The larger mental health picture shows that, according to the latest figures available (2019), 20.6% of U.S. adults, or 51.5 million people, experienced mental illness. In 2019, U.S. spending on mental healthcare services was $225 billion. Those numbers have likely gone up, with the increase in COVID-19-related mental health issues.
How can we make a dent in the gaps in healthcare delivery that have led to skyrocketing healthcare costs? The answer: technology.
Technology Solutions for Gaps in Healthcare Delivery
COVID-19 helped push the rapid adoption of technology to cover gaps in healthcare. Telehealth, along with digital mental health options like SilverCloud Health, were instrumental in helping Americans manage their physical and mental health issues.
Here are some specific ways that digital mental health programs can close the gap:
- Decrease mental health stigma - According to a January, 2021, SilverCloud Health survey, 78% of employees prefer online mental health services and support over in-person services. In fact, 60% of respondents said they would be more likely to use their mental health benefits if they could access their benefits at any time from their smartphone or other devices.
- Increase access - There is a critical shortage of physicians in the U.S. In addition, according to The American Psychological Association (APA), up to 70% of primary care visits concern mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and stress. By providing a digital mental health option, precious time is freed up for primary care doctors and other mental health practitioners to focus on the patients in need of critical care. Through the use of a digital mental health platform, those who need mental health care also have 24/7/365 access to help.
- Save costs - When St. Luke’s University Health Network implemented SilverCloud Health, they saved 17 dollars for every dollar spent, achieving a 17 times Return on Investment (ROI). Even prior to the pandemic, where productivity loss due to COVID-19 stress peaked, mental health issues lead to a loss in productivity, resulting in major costs. According to the American Psychiatric Association and cited in a McLean Hospital article, employees with unresolved depression have a 35% reduction in productivity. This leads to a loss to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion a year.
- Improve data access - Access to relevant clinical data is critical to identifying and closing care gaps. SilverCloud customer partner UnityPoint Health is the first customer to integrate SilverCloud’s programs into their electronic health records system. UnityPoint connected to SilverCloud’s digital mental health platform through Epic App Orchard, an app marketplace. SilverCloud is the first digital mental health platform to be included in the Epic App Orchard marketplace. This integration has allowed UnityPoint to provide referrals to patients with mental health symptoms and give providers insights into patient care through an in-app patient dashboard, from one centralized location.
These technology tools help close the gaps in healthcare delivery. They will significantly improve the health of Americans, and the profitability of health plans.