by Jordan Roberts
Director of Government Affairs, John Locke Foundation
But digital tools are opening up more vantage points and providers are gaining new insights into their patients’ mental and emotional states—which can affect so much of their entire well-being.
Nearly one-fifth of U.S. adults have a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, but in 2016, fewer than half of those people received treatment in the past year. When people do get treatment, it’s not necessarily effective: About 13% of patients admitted to the hospital for mental health reasons are readmitted within 30 days, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
To meet the need for behavioral healthcare—and to improve it—some healthcare organizations are turning to patient-engagement apps, others are using fitness trackers to monitor patients’ sleep, and others are conducting telemedicine consults from within primary-care physicians’ offices. With these tools, they’re aiming to increase patient interaction, which can improve outcomes not only for behavioral health but health in general.
Telemedicine’s main objective is to streamline the delivery of care while reducing consumption, increasing access, and lowering overall costs. Patients being treated for mental health issues will benefit from an array of creative methods such as therapy programs that patients can complete on their own time, data collection between visits in order to determine the effectiveness of treatment, and remote monitoring of medication being taken by patients.
Former Director of Health Policy at the John Locke Foundation, Katherine Restrepo, has been on the front lines of the Telemedicine movement. You can view a policy report she wrote, a presentation she gave, and multiple blog posts she has written on the subject in order to understand more how this innovative way to provide care can reduce costs and promote easier access, while still delivering quality care.