—Adapted from “How Providers Can Continue to Support Mental Health Services Post-Pandemic,” HealthLeaders, by Jack O’Brien, April 27, 2021.
While the pandemic is subsiding, provider organizations can continue to focus on expanding behavioral health service access through telehealth. The behavioral health services space experienced heightened attention as people suffered from greater levels of stress, anxiety, and depression during the pandemic.
Urvashi Patel, PhD, chief analytics officer, Brighton Health Plan Solutions, a healthcare enablement company based in New York, said there was a shortage of behavioral health workers prior to the pandemic, and it has only underscored the importance of adequately supporting mental health services. She added the need for greater access to pediatric behavioral health services will be evident over the next year.
When asked what hospital executives can do to address the issue, Patel said provider organizations can continue to focus on expanding behavioral health service access through telehealth. She added telemedicine apps that offer mental health services through text or chat features can provide convenient access for patients and lead to improved appointment compliance.
Hospitals and health systems should also explore models of integrated care that coordinate treatment with behavioral health specialists and primary care doctors. She also said another opportunity exists for health systems in states where advanced practice nurses can practice psychiatry on their own, noting tapping into this workforce can meet patient demand.
While there has been a significant drop-off from the record-high overall utilization of telehealth at the start of the pandemic, Patel said behavioral health utilization through virtual care has only seen a slight decline.
Patel added that behavioral health services might have a longer staying power when delivered through telehealth and could aid in removing the stigma for patients when seeking mental health treatment.