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Technology Trends in Behavioral Health

04/12/2018

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Like many other industries, technology is revolutionizing the behavioral healthcare industry, changing the way clinics practice, how patients receive care, and how researchers get data. These disruptive technologies are paving the way to increased understanding of mental well-being. Below, we’ll discuss the technologies that are making breakthroughs in the behavioral healthcare industry.

Telepsychology Health

There are many factors that can prevent an individual seeking care…embarrassment, long-distance travel, or disability. Telepsychology is the provision of behavioral healthcare services using mobile devices or webcams in lieu of traditional face-to-face therapies. While this treatment is relatively the same as in person therapy, it has opened doors for many, especially in rural areas, and has broadened the scope of available treatments.

Text crisis centers have also experienced great success in providing help to those in need. This mode of communication is different than telepsychology as it is available 24/7 versus setting a webcam call with the therapist. Nancy Lublin, Founder & CEO of Crisis Text Line, writes on their website that “We want to be where you are. We want to make it as easy as possible for people who are in pain to get help”. Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing free support available 24 hours a day. A person in need merely texts their number and are connected to a crisis counselor. While crisis counselors are not licensed professionals, but volunteers, they have experienced much success in moving a person from a “hot moment” to a “cool moment”, allowing the user to better cope with life situations.

Multi-Location & Multi-Entity Financial Visibility

Many behavioral healthcare organizations are growing rapidly, against a backdrop of many regulatory changes. Leaders in the behavioral health segment can find it a challenge to monitor performance and keep financial processes running smoothly, especially when multiple locations are involved.

Cloud computing is already acknowledged as a best practice solution in the global healthcare industry, which invested $5.4 billion in cloud medical accounting software in 2017, according to MarketsandMarkets’ report (The Healthcare Cloud Computing Market–Global Trends, Challenges, Opportunities, and Forecasts 2012-2017.)

Sage Intacct can greatly improve medical accounting; from the general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable to purchasing, cash management, and reporting, Sage Intacct's medical accounting software automates the entire procure-to-pay cycle with the industry’s most complete and cost-effective cloud-based medical accounting software. Sage Intacct integrates disparate data from multiple systems, eliminates painful spreadsheet-based financial consolidation processes, and accelerates monthly closes, all while gaining new insight into the financial and operational performance of growing healthcare organizations.

Mobile App Development 

In 2018, it is estimated that over 2.5 billion people in the world use smartphones. This provides a great opportunity for clinicians and researchers to incorporate this technology into behavioral health treatment.

Experts believe that technology has a lot of potentials, as bringing therapy into the digital world can provide many benefits:

  • Convenience – Treatments take place anytime, anywhere
  • Beginner’s care – It’s a good first step for those who have avoided therapy in the past
  • Anonymous – Treatments can take place without involving others
  • Cost effective – Some apps are free or cost less than seeing a licensed professional

While many apps are currently available, there is little research on how effective they are, especially since the majority relies on the user to report within the app. Some app developers try to combat this issue by creating apps that detect changes in behavior, using the smartphone’s built-in sensors, to record movement, social interactions, behavior at certain times of day, vocal tone and speed to prompt the user for interaction.

Below are the top trends in mental health mobile app development:

  • Improved Thinking Skills – These apps help the user with cognitive remediation
  • Skill-Development Apps – Helps users learn new coping or thinking skills, generally in a game format
  • Self-Management Apps – The user enters information, and the app provides feedback.  Some popular examples are for managing stress, sleep issues or anxiety. Some apps incorporate the use of additional technologies to monitor breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
  • Illness management and Supported Care – much like telepsychology, these apps allow users to interface with an actual human being, whether it’s peer support or a licensed professional

A few great examples of self-management apps are mental health chatbots, such as Woebot, Joy, and Wysa. These apps, once installed on your smart device, allows the user to text the chatbot and discuss issues they are experiencing, and the chatbot responds back, using the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, using emotion-recognition algorithms and conversational flows scripted by psychologists.

Therapeutic Use of Virtual Reality

Most people are familiar with VR goggles that are used for entertainment and video games, which is a headset with head-tracking motion and surround sound that immerses users in the experience. Virtual reality is now playing a role in treating schizophrenia and phobias, as it is the perfect way to provide Exposure Therapy in a safe environment. Exposure Therapy is a type of therapy used to treat disorders, exposing them to the feared object or situation to overcome their distress. This type of therapy has helped those who suffer from fear of elevators, public speaking, heights, and PTSD.

Content Services

Behavioral health providers have a tough order to fill and are always looking to improve patient care and produce quality outcomes. Most behavioral healthcare providers are adopting practices and systems that focus on delivering patient-centered care (i.e. care that is respective and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values; and ensuring these values guide all clinical decisions). Delivering this type of care is not as easy as it sounds, as it depends on having the right information at hand when and where it’s needed most. A robust healthcare content services (HCS) system is necessary to delivering true patient-centered care.

Disparate and disconnected data does not inform or provide insights. Many leaders in behavioral health are searching for true digital transformation to help manage progress notes, discharges, assessments, diagnostic test results, admissions, claim forms, and medication lists. There is a huge need for technology that aggregates these various types of content stored in multiple systems throughout an organization. Content services such as Hyland Healthcare can present information into a single, customizable view that may be accessed from within the core health information systems your users rely on every day.

Are you a leader of a behavioral health organization currently using these technologies, or looking to incorporate these technologies into your business? Contact us today for more information.