The technology for mental health, substance use treatment, and the I/DD support market continues to expand. For me, it’s been hard to keep drinking from the technology firehose. There is so much to follow and stay up-to-date on!
Maybe you don’t have enough time to review all the latest and greatest technology for our market. If that applies to you, I’ve provided a group of technologies that, in my opinion, could help provider organizations boost care quality in 2023 and beyond.
First things first! It’s hard to discuss any technology without discussing the changes in federal legislation over the years. The central theme has been that patients need access to their information, and technology providers must seamlessly share data between organizations and payers.
- 21st Century Cures Act – The Cures Act requires providers to supply copies of their medical records without putting a bunch of hurdles in the way. It also requires Electronic Health Care (EHR) vendors to build Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for you to quickly access and share your records with other providers and download them to a secure application.
- CMS Patient Access Rules – Like the Cures Act, the Patient Access Rule requires access to your medical records. The legislation matches the interoperability rules of the Cures Act and requires payer-to-payer data exchange and provider directories.
- Behavioral Health Parity – Originally enacted in 1996, it requires insurance plans to treat mental health and substance abuse issues like other health conditions. The federal government is implementing new requirements to ensure all insurance plans are compliant.
- Updates to CRF 42 Part 2 – The proposed Part 2 updates aim to improve care coordination while maintaining the HIPAA and HITECH Act confidentiality protections against unauthorized disclosure and use.
Besides evolving legislation, rule changes and additions demonstrate the various barriers to providing more seamless mental healthcare in the United States. Fortunately, more people recognize that mental healthcare is healthcare. As this idea gains widespread acceptance, health providers, payers, patients, and innovators will easily understand the need to access, review, and transport records. Then, we can expect new technologies to help close these gaps and improve care.
Game-changing technologies and companies have already emerged in the mental health field. From artificial intelligence (AI)-powered therapy apps to virtual reality (VR) treatments, 2023 promises to be another exciting year of innovation for the behavioral health market. Let’s take a look at some of these important developments.
1. More Connected, Data-Based Electronic Health Record (EHR): Historically, the EHR has been a closed system. This year, we expect to see platforms as open systems connecting to best-of-breed, third-party applications. The Cures Act is a driving force behind this. It pushes providers and certified healthcare technology vendors to give patients greater access to their medical records. It requires certified technology to provide electronic access via APIs and standardizes the core patient data for interoperability. The United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) is a standardized set of health data sets and elements for sharing health information. Companies like Canvas Medical and Zus Heath provide an open platform for connecting best-of-breed applications. Companies that provide EHRs will need to act more like these companies.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Service Assistance: No physician or therapist could ever review and do justice to a client’s complete clinical history. Not when they are under the pressures of ongoing education, weekly productivity goals, and providing well-documented notes and care plans. Several AI-related technologies are available to help alleviate some of that pressure, take on mundane data-based tasks, and allow clinicians to view the medical record fully.
- Natural Language Processing (NLP): In recent years, there has been a surge in the development of mental health apps that use NLP to help clients and therapists track and evaluate therapy sessions. These apps can be used as plug-ins with an EHR to analyze an individual’s symptoms and behavior patterns and provide tailored treatment goals and objectives. Some of the most recent players to gain attention for NLP include Eleos Health, Woebot, and DeepScribe.
- Staff Education and Coaching: Learning Management Systems (LMS) have been around for years, but I’m starting to see actual on-the-job training. For example, applications like Caresyntax offer more profound learning experiences for surgeons. I’d like to see applications similar to this used in behavioral health. I imagine something like Glean for therapists, a solution that not only records the therapy session and provides the transcribed notes but also collects and analyzes data from the rest of the client record and offers real-time, ongoing educational feedback to the client and the therapist.
3. Whole Person Health: With electronic health records becoming mandatory with the passing of the HITECH Act in 2009, it is estimated that each patient generates up to 80 megabytes of new data each year. For reference, 1 megabyte is about 500 pages of documentation. Clinical staff does not have the time to review hundreds of pages of notes and records. They will increasingly rely on data analytics and mining tools to inform them and boil down the key data on a patient. There is so much data within a health record that I don’t see how any therapist or clinical team has the time to review the client’s history. Documents including family history, medication management, housing, employment, transportation, and other quality-of-life data. Some organizations are doing great work, like ConcertoCare and their proprietary analytics platforms, as well as NeuroBlu from Holmusk, or Databricks.
4. Smart Staffing: Staffing will continue to be an issue for behavioral health in 2023, creating opportunities for digital solutions. Behavioral health needs more predictive analytics tools for staffing and education. The less friction employers and candidates experience during the hiring process, onboarding, training, and capacity management, the easier it will be to notice and address issues before they become critical. Companies like HealthStream can help with capacity management, enkompas for executive dashboards, and new companies like LeanTaaS will be moving into the behavioral health market.
5. Virtual Reality Therapy: VR therapy involves exposure to virtual environments that simulate real-life situations that may trigger anxiety. By confronting their fears in a safe and controlled environment, patients can learn how to manage their anxiety response and eventually overcome their disorder. VR therapy is still in its early stages, but initial studies have shown promising results for treating conditions like social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and PTSD. Companies like BehaVR will be leading the way in this area.
6. Digital Therapies (DTX): These FDA-approved therapies deliver mental health interventions to patients using evidence-based, clinically evaluated software to treat and manage diseases. They can take many forms, addressing a variety of concerns. The ABILIFY MYCITE System is the first FDA-approved prescription digital medicine system that uses a pill, patch, app, and dashboard to track the effectiveness of treatment with the drug aripiprazole. NightWare is an FDA-cleared prescription digital therapeutic (PDT) system used to reduce sleep disturbance related to PTSD. Another recent development is reSET, a 90-day PDT to improve substance use disorder (SUD) outcomes.
7. 24/7 Client Feedback via Wearables: Wearables are some of the most popular new mental health technologies, and honestly, one that I’m the most excited about. These apps allow you to become more aware of behavioral patterns and psychological triggers. These applications can be incredibly helpful in managing anxiety and reducing the risk of addiction relapse. They can also help patients identify when they feel stressed so they can take action. Some popular mood-tracking apps include Akili, which uses gaming for ADHD therapy, and Rae Health, which helps to track and report substance abuse cravings. Another example is Pivot, which was introduced for tobacco cessation. The 24/7 monitoring and biofeedback processes will help clients better understand their illnesses and take charge of their recovery.
There is much excitement as emerging technologies like AI, VR, specialized DTX phone-based tools, and wearables promise to revolutionize the mental health field in 2023 and beyond. These technologies provide better actionable data for patients and clinical staff.
This is a lot of information, and there will be plenty more to come. The technology offerings have multiplied, and the days of just choosing an EHR and being done are in the rearview mirror. Please reach out if your organization is interested in evaluating how these applications can be incorporated into your clinical practice. I’m excited to help you through the process.