What thoughts come to mind when you hear mental disorders? Have you or a loved one struggled with one, or have you heard about someone who has suffered in silence?
Mental illnesses are far more common than most of us think. They affect people of all ages, races, faiths, and socioeconomic status and are associated with elevated healthcare costs and significant productivity losses. With timely and suitable treatment, the severity of mental/ behavioral health (BH) problems can be lessened at a much reduced cost. The majority of people with a serious BH illness have reported relief from their symptoms through active participation in an individual treatment plan.
Individual Treatment at the Primary Care Level
Studies show that –
- 1 in every 20 adults in the U.S. suffers from a serious BH disorder
- Over 50% of the people in the U.S. with a BH condition did not receive any treatment in 2022
- Each year, the United States incurs an economic cost of over $100 billion due to untreated mental illness
These findings are worrisome and clearly, corrections are in order. With that intent, efforts are underway to introduce improvements in –
- The treatment of complex mental illnesses in primary care that is otherwise focused on screening for common disorders
- Educating primary care practitioners, developing treatment recommendations, and referring patients to specialized mental healthcare providers
While these improvements are necessary components of effective interventions, these approaches, alone or in combination, have not been shown to improve patient outcomes. As of March 2023, 160 million Americans live in locations that lack mental health specialists. Ironically, over 8,000 additional professionals are needed to ensure adequate caregiving for this population.
Virtual Collaborative Care, Applications, and Benefits
The question, then, is – What can be done to give such patients continued access to treatment that takes care of their mental as well as physical well-being? The answer lies in Virtual Collaborative Care. An integrated approach to providing comprehensive healthcare services, virtual collaborative care models bring together multiple healthcare providers on a single platform to deliver coordinated care to patients. These models make use of technology and virtual platforms to help healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers communicate, share data, and collaborate better to deliver improved clinical and whole-person health outcomes.
The five key ways virtual collaborative care models help providers and patients bridge gaps are –
- Enhanced communication: Virtual collaborative care models allow for secure, real-time communication among various healthcare providers involved in a patient's care. Primary care physicians, specialists, nurses, pharmacists, and mental health professionals are all part of the caregiving team. Improved communication leads to better care coordination, and lowers the risk of miscommunication and/or service duplication.
- Continuity of care: Virtual collaborative care models help healthcare providers gain centralized and secure access to a patient's medical records, test results, and treatment plans. This continuity of care ensures that all providers involved in a patient's treatment are up-to-date on their medical history and current treatments, resulting in better decision making and outcomes.
- Patient empowerment: Patients are encouraged to actively participate in their healthcare decisions when using virtual collaborative care models. Patients can access their health information, review treatment options, and communicate with their healthcare team with greater ease, thanks to remote monitoring, patient portals, and virtual consultations. This gives patients the ability to take charge of their health and make informed decisions.
- Improved efficiency and cost effectiveness: Virtual collaborative care models improve healthcare delivery efficiency by streamlining administrative tasks, reducing paperwork, and optimizing workflows. As a result, virtual care is instrumental in lowering healthcare costs for both providers and patients because it reduces the need for physical infrastructure and minimizes non-essential in-person visits.
- Better outcomes and reduced hospitalizations: Virtual collaborative care models help identify potential health issues early on and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations by promoting proactive and continuous care. Patients' health can be better managed through remote monitoring and timely interventions, resulting in enhanced health outcomes.
The U.S. faces a shortage of mental health professionals in many areas, especially in rural and underserved communities. Virtual collaborative care addresses this issue by leveraging technology to remotely connect patients with mental health specialists from different locations. This virtual network expands the pool of available providers, enabling more patients to receive the care they need without being limited by geographical boundaries.
Virtual collaborative care models offer a range of advantages that enhance communication, coordination, and patient engagement. By leveraging technology to bridge gaps between providers and patients, these models promote a more patient-centered and efficient healthcare delivery system.
Think Virtual Collaborative Care, Think Urban Health
Urban Health’s pathbreaking evidence- and measurement-based, AI-guided therapy and care-enabling integrative solution is radically transforming the cost-effective delivery of integrated mental healthcare at scale.
Urban Health helps users (patients) adhere to their medication regimens and remember their appointments by sending automated timely notifications. It also assists physicians with understanding whether patients are sticking to the recommended treatment, and to what extent.
To learn more about how you can contain costs and improve financial outcomes by embracing our integrative mental healthcare solutions, click here.