Behavioral care integration essential for chronic disease management

New healthcare and payment models, such as the CMS Medicare Shared Saving Program (MSSP) for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), focus on value-based care and chronic disease management. However, behavioral health is not given the same importance as physical health in these new emerging models.

Only one of the 33 quality measures in the MSSP addresses behavioral health. As Ken Cahill, CEO SilverCloud Health, recently wrote about in HIT Leaders and News, research shows addressing behavioral health helps manage chronic disease occurrences and hospitalizations. For example, mental health conditions are widespread among high-cost, frequently hospitalized Medicaid beneficiaries. Anxiety and depression associated with a new diagnosis or ongoing maintenance also negatively impact patient engagement and can exacerbate complications leading to increased hospitalizations or emergency room visits.

Curtailing this cycle will require more than additional mental health professionals, which are in short supply. Evidence-based online behavioral and mental wellness solutions can help by allowing patients to access engaging and personalized platforms on-demand that address healthcare gaps as well as help organizations achieve integration and achieve population health initiatives.

Addressing patient needs and provider shortage

Behavioral healthcare is a widespread need among those with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, where 70 percent of patients with complications suffer from depression.

While the patient-care need is great, at least 5,338 new mental health practitioners are also needed to adequately treat these patients. At the same time, 80 percent of Americans have high-speed Internet access, which presents an opportunity for telehealth solutions, in conjunction with periodic face-to-face therapy, to deliver high-quality, effective and less-costly treatments. By integrating online behavioral healthcare with supported chronic care management, telehealth addresses the underlying contributors that may prevent patients from successfully adhering to their chronic-condition management regimen.

Telehealth programs should follow the Gold Standard for Internet-delivered interventions and be evidence-based, outcomes-focused and supported by clinical research that validates efficacy. When built on a robust platform that is highly personalized and flexible to patients’ needs, the telehealth program can expand patient care paths, enhance the care experience and eliminate access and stigma barriers while delivering outcomes equivalent to face-to-face treatment.

Triple Aim and accountable care goals achieved

There is a growing consensus on the benefits of behavioral and physical healthcare integration. This includes a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that states that treating mental illnesses associated with chronic conditions can reduce the effects of both and support better outcomes, which is one of the elements of the healthcare Triple Aim, in addition to reducing per capita care costs and an enhancing the patient experience. Evidence-based telehealth mental health solutions allow providers to accomplish all three while better treating the whole patient, instead of just disparate physical symptoms.

For more information, Ken Cahill’s entire HIT Leaders and News article is available here. Also, we will be exhibiting and demoing our online platform at the World Diabtes Congress in Vancouver between Dec 1st & 4th. We hope to see you there!