Top trends in 2022 for telehealth for behavioural healthcare

Top Trends in 2022 for telehealth for behavioural healthcare

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, behavioural health and addiction organizations were forced to rapidly adopt point products, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, to care for clients. Unfortunately, these organizations continue to use point products and manual processes to deliver care even as the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down. Two years in, and providers continue to manage telehealth operations and provide virtual programming with disconnected systems and platforms. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of three emerging telehealth trends for 2022 that we believe organizations can heed to change the way virtual care is delivered now and into the future. 

Here’s the top trends:

  1. Moving from adoption to evolution 
  2. Revisiting quality over quantity care
  3. Driving efficiency through technology 

From adoption to evolution 

In 2022, we expect to see more behavioural health and addictions organizations move “from adoption to evolution”– away from point products and manual, disconnected processes, towards unified solutions that enable them to deliver telehealth at scale, with automation features, APIs, tools to enhance continuity of care, and outcome measurement features in one place. 

An evolved telehealth strategy is a requirement for the future of mental healthcare, especially because there is a real, concerning demand for virtual mental healthcare treatment in 2022.  With more than 41 percent of adults reporting having at least one adverse mental health reaction in the past year, behavioural healthcare systems and organizations need to step up. In fact, the International Committee of the Red Cross calls the mental health fallout from the pandemic a “crisis within a crisis.” 

More patients will need care, and organizations will have to adjust how they deliver that care to meet demand and patient expectations. In order for behavioural healthcare organizations to manage the influx of new patients and deal with this crisis, they need to rethink how they deliver telehealth. This means embracing complete solutions that offer more than a simple video call, to improve the patient experience to increase retention, encourage program compliance, and move the needle on treatment completion rates. In 2022, we’ll see mental healthcare leaders redefine how they, their organizations, and providers, think about telehealth.

Revisiting quantity over quality care 

In last year’s trends article, we outlined the need for organizations to transition away from fee-for-service care to value-based care models. This trend remains top-of-mind for behavioural healthcare patients in 2022, and we continue to see more behavioural and mental healthcare organizations consider changing their care model in 2022 and beyond. 

Behavioural healthcare patients’ care costs 2 to 3 times more than for a patient without a mental or behavioural health diagnosis, so the transition to value-based care is extremely appealing. There are two major benefits: the potential savings associated with value-based care; and the opportunity for health plans and insurers to correct this inequitable and inaccessible care model for mental healthcare patients.

Such a change is considered imperative, given the potential collapse of the behavioural and mental healthcare system under the load of the “crisis within a crisis.” This is due to a lack of mental healthcare providers; 63 percent of all counties in the United States have a shortage of psychiatrists. It’s also due to exacerbated issues associated with mental healthcare costs, like high-premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket expenses that are insurmountable barriers to receiving care for patients. 

One way to begin confronting this issue in 2022 is by “aligning on metrics that matter.” Organizations, insurers, leaders, and government can begin by aligning reimbursement metrics to outcomes metrics, like utilization. This way, providers can focus on treating a patient long-term while showing success metrics to encourage patient retention and completion rates. A recent study even shows that value-based care for mental healthcare results in over $204 million in cost savings and over 75% improvement for patients. Clearly, moving to a value-based care model has its benefits, and for the sake of this system, it’s paramount that organizations start making the change. 

Driving efficiency through technology 

If organizations are going to efficiently care for 50 to 175 times the number of patients they treated prior to the pandemic, they need to find news to decrease labour costs and increase efficiency overall. In 2022, behavioural healthcare organizations will need to arm themselves with technology that not only helps them provide the best virtual treatment, but maximizes staff efficiency overall. 

Interestingly, healthcare labour costs are set to exponentially increase in 2022, even more than the average $24 billion dollars healthcare systems are already paying for qualified labour today. Patients and clinicians expect useful and digital tools as part of the care journey, and organizations need to step up to deliver on these expectations. For instance, to efficiently grow their operations to care for an influx of patients without increasing overhead, organizations can use technology to assess which patients can benefit from virtual care and which from in-person care. A digital process like this can eliminate manual administrative work associated with patient admissions, such as informed consent and care history, and even reduce data errors that can cost providers and administrators hours of manual work. 

Finding new ways of caring for patients includes offering cost-effective alternative care models to help maximize operational efficiency, while enabling providers and patients to leverage convenient healthcare when and where it suits them. As organization’s evolve their telehealth strategy to be more holistic and unified, they should also consider ways to leverage technology to improve operational efficiency and maximize output. 

Conclusion

We know that delivering virtual mental health programs through disconnected systems is a strain on healthcare providers and clients. Now, healthcare leaders are looking beyond their EMR, Zoom, and manual processes to evolve their telehealth strategy for better patient outcomes, higher revenue, and increased efficiency. 

To do this, healthcare leaders need to challenge the purpose of their technology and reexamine their understanding of telehealth, examining ways in which end-to-end systems like OnCall can create better care experiences and power business growth. They also need to partner with insurers to develop a healthier fee system as more patients seek services, and so care remains equitable and accessible even if patients live in remote communities. 

Moreso, providers who continue to use disconnected platforms will only continue experiencing discontinuity in their care, a lack of connection to their clients, and more burnout as a result of disorganization. Organizations should look to invest in solutions that maximize efficiency so providers can care for more patients, improve healthcare outcomes, and evolve their operations for better business in the future.