Industry Roundtable: Mental Health Crisis Demands Accelerated Shift Towards Integrated Behavioral Healthcare

Image of empty panelist table

Thought leaders from Tridiuum, Legacy Community Health, LifeStance Health, and PsychHub spearhead movement to bridge the gap between physical and behavioral care

PHILADELPHIA – September 23, 2020Tridiuum, the nation’s premier provider of digital behavioral health solutions, recently convened an industry roundtable to discuss the critical need to accelerate adoption of an integrated, technology-driven approach to behavioral healthcare in 2021 and beyond. Tridiuum hosted the roundtable to bring attention to this important conversation and advocate for much-needed change that will benefit patients, healthcare providers, community-based organizations, employers, payers, educational institutions, and the nation’s justice system – who have all been overwhelmed by the massive scale of the mental health crisis.

In late June, the CDC reported that 40 percent of Americans were struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. Fortunately, increased awareness about mental health and value-based reforms are catalyzing new approaches to connecting patients with the care they need. However, progress has been slow and more action is needed.

“We’re on a mission to make a difference by collaborating across the industry and breaking down silos that have traditionally prevented the delivery of holistic, whole-person care,” said Mark Redlus, CEO of Tridiuum, and a roundtable participant. “We firmly believe that whole-person care is not only better for patients and providers but also that it represents a major step forward for the healthcare ecosystem – by improving outcomes, reducing costs, and increasing patient engagement. We’re excited to help lead the movement towards change with innovation and advocacy that will drive transformation.”

Key takeaways from the roundtable included:

Healthcare is far from reaching a truly integrated approach to behavioral and clinical healthcare: We have barely scratched the surface in healthcare,” said Michael K. Lester, CEO of LifeStance Health. “A lot of people use the term ‘integrated care’ interchangeably with ‘co-located care,’ where the patient just has to go down the hall to see the behavioral clinician. But that appointment is being managed and billed independently of the primary care visit, so there may not be structured information sharing between the two despite the fact that they’re neighbors.”

He added, “In a truly integrated model, everyone on the care team is coordinated around the patient and is involved in what’s happening – there are no siloes of information. That’s extremely rare right now, but it’s a goal we must achieve. When you integrate behavioral health with primary care, you’re addressing the whole patient, which has a positive impact on overall patient costs and outcomes.”

Patients have a new mindset about mental health and are ready to embrace integrated care: According to Marjorie Morrison, CEO and Founder of PsychHub, “Patients are becoming increasingly accepting of this holistic, integrated approach to care. Higher out-of-pocket financial responsibility, a consumer-centered approach to healthcare, and a cultural shift in stigma around mental health are changing the way patients think about their own care.”

She emphasized that this is a powerful shift. “People are still talking about the stigma problem in mental health, but I believe the pendulum is swinging the other way. We have a whole generation of people who are openly talking about mental and behavioral health. They’re sharing their diagnoses. They’re looking for ways to be more proactive about caring for themselves. The next step for the industry is to stop being reactive about mental health and truly embrace the idea of whole-person care.”

Tele-behavioral health has emerged as a gamechanger – but technology on its own isn’t enough: Mark Redlus, CEO of Tridiuum, cites that, “Tele-behavioral health is among the most effective tools providers can offer, especially during the quarantines and social distancing of COVID-19. It is highly effective, easy to stand up, and affordable for providers to implement. When you pair remote consults with automation features to optimize the workflow and standardize data collection, it’s truly empowering for clinicians”

“However, technology on its own won’t cut it,” Redlus continued.  “To make real progress, we need to evolve our thinking on workflows in the primary care setting and apply systems-level strategies to the integration problem. Systems-level thinking is about more than just technology. It has to incorporate workflow, training, collaboration, and managing expectations within your patient panel.”

Training and updates to payment models are also vital to realizing change: Katy Caldwell, CEO of Legacy Community Health Center in Houston, agrees that integrating care is critical but stresses that more building blocks must be in place to achieve true integration. “Training absolutely needs to happen for our PCPs, as well as internal medicine, pediatrics, and others. We also need to ensure that PCPs are adequately paid for these behavioral health components. Oftentimes, there are a lot of things primary care providers are required to do within a 15-minute visit. But they’re not adequately compensated for it, which is the opposite of an incentive to be holistic in their approach.”

Most importantly, the roundtable participants agree that the time is now to make this vision a reality – and that the industry is ripe for change. “It very clear that this is an area that must be central to all our future efforts to reform healthcare,” said Caldwell. “It’s a win for patients. It’s a win for the organization. It’s a win for the health system at large. When we start to truly embrace the idea of integrated behavioral healthcare, we are going to dramatically improve quality and outcomes for a huge number of people.”

 

Download the full report