Integrating a Whole Person Care View for Actionable Behavioral Health Services


The United States is experiencing a mental health epidemic as part of the Covid-19 pandemic that is driving up rates of substance use disorders (SUDs). February 2022 provisional data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found that approximately 104,288 people in the United States died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending September 2021.

To make matters worse, behavioral health providers are increasingly under-resourced and struggling to meet growing patient demands. At the same time, we are seeing increased awareness of behavioral health issues that helps reduce stigma. This led to more people seeking care; however, finding affordable, evidence-based care is often difficult.

Recognizing the need for a stronger system to facilitate access to behavioral health care, federal and state governments are stepping in. save mental health and addictions services. The legislation aims to improve behavioral health care by allocating $4 billion to programs that support the prevention and treatment of mental health and SUD. This includes Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Block Grants, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) expansion grants, Supplier Relief Fund for those serving rural communities, and additional funding for SAMHSA and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) programs.

While this legislation represents an important step forward, it also underscores the growing need to integrate a comprehensive behavioral health capacity management and referral technology solution across all states. The benefits of such a system help health systems, payers, and state and county governments create a trusted treatment network to improve support and delivery of care to patients in need, improve public health, and enable a holistic view of the person for behavioral health treatment.

Barriers to Whole Person Behavioral Health Care

A key issue in better understanding a patient’s full health picture is that health data is siled in different systems across the country. This means healthcare providers, regardless of specialty, don’t always have access to the health data needed to integrate physical health into their overall behavioral health and health plans.

There are even more challenges for patient populations that are traditionally underserved and neglected. We should be able to track these high-risk individuals from a behavioral health perspective. For example, when they are admitted for an overdose, we should be able to alert their providers, clinicians or care managers, wherever they are. If they do not have a provider, they should be linked to definitive assessment and treatment. This way, they can get the care they need when they leave the emergency department (ED), when they are most vulnerable.

This can be done by identifying and tracking inpatient and outpatient mental health and treatment resources in mental health and SUD, as well as social service resources, in a single network. This technology can track usage and referral patterns at the organizational, regional, and state levels to help identify service gaps, inform policy and program design, and make the use of resources more cost-effective. Most importantly, it needs to be integrated so that behavioral health care providers can refer to primary care, primary care providers can refer to behavioral health care providers or the emergency department, and offices primary care providers with behavioral health coordinators can use the system for ongoing follow-up. care.

Solutions for a holistic view of the person

There is now a thirst for real-time patient data with care transitions among clinicians and payers. Although many healthcare facilities and providers do not currently have access to this critical care coordination information that could help save lives, healthcare information technology solutions are available to facilitate the referral and rapid provider feedback.

A recent example of whole person care in action is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) interoperability and Electronic Patient Access Rule (CoP) notifications, which required hospitals across the country to send real-time ADT notifications to everyone. post-acute care providers, PCPs and requesting primary care entities, effective May 1, 2021. This provision was designed to help hospitals better serve their patients through better coordination of care and interoperability increased between suppliers. Healthcare providers who have integrated a CMS-compliant solution are now notified electronically whenever patients experience care events. They receive an electronic notification of hospitalization regarding their patient and are informed if their patient is in the hospital with a behavioral health problem.

One step closer: Building infrastructure to support the future of community-level crisis care

The federal government is also trying to normalize access to emerging behavioral health care across the United States, which is badly needed. Their goal is to put behavioral health care on an equal footing with physical health care. This is done by treating behavioral health emergencies the same as physical emergencies. Although the concept of crisis care and hotlines is not new, previous approaches to managing behavioral health crises were piecemeal in many communities. To prevent too many individuals from falling through the cracks, states and communities need a comprehensive and integrated behavioral health crisis infrastructure to close gaps in care.

To do this, communities should make clinicians available to speak to patients in need, and they must have the ability to dispatch a mobile crisis team, the equivalent of an ambulance. The clinician can then assess patients on the spot and take them to a 24-hour emergency or crisis department for observation where, if necessary, they can be transferred to more intensive care or outpatient care. This level of crisis support benefits patients by enabling urgent access to the care they need while giving providers a broader view of their existing conditions and health needs.

The federal government has understood this need for a system to leverage treatment capacity, provide situational awareness regarding treatment availability, and enable digital referrals for comprehensive person care. Yet they need technology to link hotlines as well as clinicians’ electronic health record systems — all needed to support the nation’s suicide hotline designation law. The law establishes “988” as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline effective July 16, 2022, requiring the Federal Communications Commission to designate “988” as the universal telephone number for a national hotline for suicide prevention and mental health crises.

With a crisis management technology infrastructure in place, crisis call center staff can digitally communicate with mobile crisis units and treatment providers, view treatment availability in real time, and send patients to manage crisis situations related to mental health and the SOUTH. In this way, they can support collaboration between departments of behavioral and developmental health services, law enforcement agencies, hospitals and healthcare facilities, and various other stakeholders.

Linking with health data for comprehensive care of the person

In closing, collectively improving access to behavioral health services requires a data lens. Providers, treatment organizations, referral organizations, health systems, managed care organizations, social services, and state entities have set the stage to improve access to care through secure access to health data. patient health. This data informs all parties caring for the patient of their status and allows them to get the urgent access to the care they need while preventing them from falling through the cracks.

As we look to the future, we must continue to work toward our collective goal of integrating a whole person care vision for actionable behavioral health services. By leveraging health data interoperability and real-time data availability solutions integrated into the clinical workflow at the point of care, we can enable providers to identify and monitor mental health and treatment of SOUTHERN inpatients and outpatients, as well as social service resources, in an integrated framework. network supported by decision support and patient analysis.

Fostering such collaboration in a behavioral healthcare coordination network with real-time patient data, analytics, and clinical decision support tools enables support for the whole person in the entire healthcare ecosystem. Supporting this real-time coordination of care will benefit the physical and behavioral health of every patient, resulting in better outcomes and meaningful progress against the mental health and addiction crisis that has cut too many lives and left family and friends in mourning.

Photo credit: Alexei Morozov, Getty Images


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