Technology and Behavioral Health: The Time Is Now
Defining the Role of Technology in Behavioral Health
Thanks to the myriad of new technologies entering the market, the opportunity to revolutionize health care delivery as we know it today is great! However, how do we know what really works and where to start prioritizing our efforts?
As expanding access holds great potential to improve outcomes, we must include the use of mobile technologies in how we think about service-delivery models.
The answer lies in Beacon Health Options’ new technology strategy: identifying specific areas and capabilities of focus.
A rush to develop solutions
Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of new technology solutions for promoting physical and mental health. These new solutions have included web- and mobile-based health assessments; SMS text messaging for outreach and engagement; monitoring devices with smartphone sensors; and intervention tools, such as computer-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tools. In addition, various engagement strategies have included gaming and virtual reality programs, as well as health condition-based social media networking groups.
Market factors are driving this development. Access to the internet and mobile devices has been growing at extraordinary rates:
- More than 90 percent of individuals worldwide now have access to mobile phone services, totaling about 6.8 billion mobile phone subscriptions.
- There are more than 1.4 billion smartphones in use in the world today, and smartphone access is expected to triple globally to 5.6 billion by 2019.
The changing service delivery model
As expanding access holds great potential to improve outcomes, we must include the use of mobile technologies in how we think about service-delivery models for such areas as follow-up, after-care monitoring, self-reported patient outcomes, care management alerts, and decision-support tools.
Given the various uses of technology, self-management has a critical role to play in the new care-management model. As an example, the growth of digital technologies for remote monitoring is a market increasing in prevalence and value. This market alone has jumped from almost $6 billion in 2009 to $7.1 billion in 2010, and is projected to reach 1.8 million patients worldwide by 2017. By some estimates, we will see a $197 billion reduction in national health care spending over the next 25 years as a result of this type of monitoring technology.
That said, how does one navigate the countless technology solutions that purport higher patient engagement rates, improved clinical outcomes and significant cost savings?
Begin with a strategy
At Beacon Health Options, we first defined what we hope to accomplish through member-facing technology.
- What outcomes are we hoping to achieve?
- What types of technologies are we seeking?
- Do we want the technology to function as a stand-alone tool or as a treatment extender?
The answers to these questions became clearer with the formation of a technology investment committee. Comprised of members of Beacon’s executive, strategy, product development and clinical teams, the committee’s unified approach to technology began to form. It included the following recognitions:
- There are five outcomes we are trying to achieve: Increasing member participation in own care; intervening before a crisis occurs; supporting high quality, cost-effective care; extending treatment into the community; and integrating behavioral health care into primary care provider settings.
- There are eight categories of technology of interest: Computer-based CBT; online counseling; online social networks; mobile platforms for self-tracking/support (texting/communications); gaming; virtual reality; predictive analytics; and decision-support.
- There are three areas where we see an intersection between a desired outcome and a technology that can help achieve that goal:
- Mobile platforms run across the entire spectrum of goals, as our ability to connect with members outside of provider interactions can influence the entire paradigm.
- Predictive analytics and decision-support can help us collect and analyze member-reported outcomes, as well as give us data to intervene before a crisis.
- Computer-based CBT and online counseling can support high quality, cost-effective care and extend treatment into the community.
An evaluation of potential solutions should include: a view into past clinical trials and results; engagement rates; treatment adherence; clinical improvements; outcomes and data analytics; usability; and pricing.
Given the various uses of technology, self-management has a critical role to play in the new care-management model.
Will the above technologies drive better outcomes? Which will be most effective and for whom?
When we ask the right questions and get meaningful answers, we will be on our way to revolutionizing health care delivery.
Over the next 12 months, we will launch a series of pilots for new technologies at specific Beacon Health Options locations. Watch out for future blog posts highlighting progress on this exciting agenda!