Why Mental Health and Digital Engagement Impacted Patient Volume in 2020
The world seemed to fall apart in 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, and mental health took a hit. By late June 2020, nearly 40% of adults reported that they grappled with mental health or substance abuse according to the CDC. Even more alarming, just over 1 in 10 considered suicide.
When anxiety screenings rose 93% from the year prior in a short amount of time (January - September 2020), it was only a matter of time until it impacted the therapy industry. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take much time for that to happen. One virtual mental health platform, Ginger, reported its highest utilization numbers in 2020, reaching a 302% increase in virtual therapy and psychiatry in late September compared to previous averages before the pandemic.
These numbers are significant, but for good reason. When in-person patient volume is dropping across the board, mental health care is the outlier with remarkable growth. It’s worth taking a look at why this is happening for most mental health providers.
Ideal for Telehealth
The transition from in-person care to virtual care is nearly seamless with mental, emotional and behavioral healthcare. That’s why it’s the ideal candidate for telehealth. Patients can meet with their providers whenever it works for them, sometimes 24/7. Some patients are solely using apps to find a therapist near them or to go to therapy virtually. These apps can even be fine-tuned to help find the right therapist for them based on what they’re dealing with mentally.
Then there are health systems like Kaiser Permanente that are integrating mental health apps as part of their treatment. The health system started testing the approach three years ago and it helped the health system recover when in-person visits dropped.
For other systems, switching almost entirely to virtual care made the difference. When the New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center moved 95% of their care to telehealth for mental health patients, they found that fewer appointments were missed because patients could easily access them right away.
The July 2020 PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic, a national market research study of healthcare consumer attitudes and behaviors, found that 43% of people with anxiety or depression planned to use telehealth. The study also looked at how psychographic segments, or “healthcare personalities,” have used telehealth and were planning to use it in the future. Two out of five psychographic segments making up 50% of the population accounted for three quarters of past telehealth use, and they were also the most likely patient types to use telehealth for behavioral health, psychiatric appointments or substance abuse/addiction treatment.
Health systems and centers recovered faster when they had these systems built in place or quickly created, helping their patient volume stay steady when others weren’t as lucky. Moving into 2021, this approach to treating mental health will continue to grow in use.
Checking in with Digital Reminders
Like with any patient, if you’re working with patients with mental health issues, continually checking in on their progress is critical. Digital reminders integrated within a digital health platform like the PatientBond Digital Health Platform can be the difference between recovery and stagnation.
From appointment reminders to checking in on the patient’s progress, patients get a strong sense that you’re continually there for them and are more likely to continue treatment. It takes little effort to make it part of your care protocol and integrate it within the platform, but it can make a noticeable improvement in patient health outcomes overall.
Digital Communication Options
In the past, patients didn’t have the luxury to get ahold of their doctor whenever they needed it. If there was a small health concern they were dealing with, they wouldn’t even bother bugging the doctor. Even now, if you want to see a doctor, it can take days or more just to get an in-person appointment.
That’s why messaging platforms built within a digital health platform is such a fantastic option. Patients can ask a quick question that their doctor can answer within 24-48 hours. Live chats are even better, especially for mental health patients, so that they can talk to a doctor or a nurse on-call in real-time. That can make the difference for patients going through serious mental issues that need to be addressed immediately. And if they prefer a 24-hour hotline instead, that works too.
Patients, especially today, are drawn to easy, accessible care options that offer multiple ways to connect with their health provider. Mental health patients especially know that they have options when it comes to their care thanks to the myriad of apps and platforms on the market. But patients like working with someone they can trust, that is there for them and if they’re nearby, they can visit them if needed.
By integrating digital approaches as much as possible, care providers can retain their patient volume, if not expand it, for years to come. For more on how to grow patient volume using telehealth, check out our case study with AmeriHealth.