Behavioral healthcare is on the precipice of an exciting new frontier. While the sector has been slow to adopt major tech innovations, emerging tools are ushering in unique advantages that allow providers to maximize profit, advance their sector and improve care for patients more than ever before.
As a CEO working within the tech and revenue cycle management industries, I listen to the concerns of both insurance companies and healthcare providers to identify trends in behavioral healthcare every day. One major issue is apparent: insurers want to reimburse for evidence-based care, but providing the necessary evidence to them has proven difficult for providers dealing with mental health and substance use disorder issues.
However, two innovations, telemedicine and AI-based electronic health records (EHR) systems, are uniquely positioned to improve this issue. More so than general healthcare, these tools are the future of behavioral healthcare because they more adequately service and assist in the diagnosis of mental health disorders. Telemedicine allows providers to engage with patients for longer periods while AI-based EHR systems can track results for providers more efficiently, giving insurers the evidence-based results they require while offering patients the improved care they deserve. Here’s how:
Transforming the Industry with Telemedicine Tech
New technologies connect people every day. In behavioral health, telemedicine technology is an especially valuable tool because it can increase access to more users and stabilize costs throughout the industry. Today, it’s estimated that over 43.8 million American adults experience mental illness in a given year and that number is steadily increasing, encouraging the need for telemedicine.
Already, complex behavioral health cases are treated via virtual approaches with startups like MDLive, Teladoc, and American Well which offer virtual and on-the-go mental health services that provide access to psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists through phone, tablet or computer.
Of telemedicine’s many benefits, it provides an essential resource for behavioral health access and convenience for all parties. Patients can find available doctors for their specific mental health issue in different geographic locations. With a significant shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals throughout the country, it’s predicted that 4,000 areas have a shortage: only one psychiatrist per 30,000 people. Dr. Lisa A. Marsch, director of the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health (CTBH) at Dartmouth College, mentions that in these areas, 90% of the patient’s behavioral health needs go unmet, identifying the need for tools like telemedicine.
In my experience, trends show insurance companies beginning to acknowledge the value of covering behavioral health services through telemedicine. As telemedicine expands, CMS codes are increasingly generated to help insurers identify and provide reimbursement to virtual behavioral health providers. It also allows insurance companies to save money rather than covering more expensive services, like the emergency room, that requires high-utilizing patients to seek in-person treatment if they don’t receive preventative behavioral healthcare.
Machine learning and automation also make remote patient monitoring by telemedicine a reality. Companies like PhysIQ and Sentrian, offer solutions that can help monitor patients remotely as they automatically track whether symptoms for every individual patient improve or not. This increases scalability by seven to eight times. Led by human-like avatars within the telemedicine interface, these tools can ask and process comprehensive mental health questions to help providers determine how to treat patients while assessing their health histories.
Yet, to reach further scalability, specific functions must be simplified and outsourced back to the patient. Telemedicine will create a system that gives patients autonomy but also harnesses value-based care through emerging tools like AI and data.
As telemedicine gives more people access to mental health treatment, it will also become a tool for payers to research and follow the anonymous symptoms and cures in the long-term. By 2025, the global telemedicine market is expected to increase to $19.5 billion.
Electronic Health Records Get Smart
As the demand for telemedicine creates a more convenient world for behavioral health patients, smart EHR will also revolutionize behavioral healthcare with more dramatic, long-term solutions. Enhanced by AI, EHR should be utilized as interactive tools, not just repositories of static patient data. A recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association by medical researchers at Stanford University found that AI can lead to huge improvements in the ways information and technology are leveraged in behavioral healthcare, specifically regarding electronic health records.
Using predictive analytics and natural language processing among other factors, AI-enabled EHR of the future will help better diagnose and understand patient data for more effective behavioral health treatment. A Deloitte University report highlights how with AI, based on patient history, EHR systems of the future can “automatically determine if the patient is a candidate for new treatments or clinical research that might improve outcomes.”
Three types of AI-led analytics can assist in behavioral health diagnosis and research. Predictive analytics implemented from machine learning is used by companies and healthcare pros to determine possible patient outcomes, as the chances of worsening health conditions or mental illness in a patient’s family history. Diagnostic analytics, defined by Gartner research, are advanced analytics which examines health data and content to determine why specific outcomes occur. On the other hand, research firms use prescriptive analytics to develop machine learning algorithms that comprehensively analyze patient data to improve patient management quality including the handling of patient cases or ordering tests.
Research companies can also implement a blend of machine learning tools to process better mental health outcomes. Using data from the backend of EHR, doctors can build a clearer picture of which medications their patients should take based on other patients who’ve experienced a similar diagnosis. First, it will read what a patient reports in digital paperwork and use further research and historical data to correlate the right prescription. To personalize care, doctors can also use AI to notify and allow them to assess if any other conditions may cause patients to react negatively to prescribed medications using anonymous data within the EHR backend.
Currently, the MIT Clinical Machine Learning Group is developing a next-generation intelligent electronic health records system which incorporates built-in ML/AI tools that help predict and assess diagnostics, assist in clinical decisions and give personalized treatment suggestions to doctors. Market research indicates that the market for advanced EHR records will increase to $33 billion by 2025.
Advanced Technologies for Better Care
Imagine the extensive scale with which we can improve behavioral health in the actual treatment space. If we combine our revenue cycle management technology with telemedicine services and AI-enabled EHR systems, we can have a more efficient, cost-effective healthcare system as companies connect to these more sophisticated technologies.
Healthcare delivery in the United States and worldwide will continue to explore and implement telemedicine and AI-based EHR as value-based health demands provide improved ways to give care. It would change the game for behavioral health if people in remote areas can have direct access to care at any time or consider how AI-based EHR can predict what a patient needs before they become ill. An estimated $17.2 billion in incentives is allocated for the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology in the future which includes the assessment and exchange of clinical information. In time, these advanced tools and systems can help reshape and improve the future of giving and receiving behavioral healthcare for good.
Ali Beheshti is the founder and CEO of Zealie, a revenue cycle management company in the behavioral health space. Ali is passionate about transforming behavioral health by creating an influential business that uses data, automation, AI, and other emerging technologies to bring innovation and efficiency to the sector.