Impact of Technology on Behavioral Health Treatment
IN A NUTSHELL:
- Pandemic increased need for behavioral health treatment
- New technology diversified behavioral health treatment methods
- Apps have positive and negative impacts on behavioral health treatment
The COVID-19 Pandemic impacted healthcare in more ways than ever imagined and new technology may shape behavioral health for years to come.
The CDC highlighted behavioral health as a concern not too long after COVID-19 became widespread. The pandemic exacerbated or caused increased levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions by its social impacts.
As a result, behavioral health providers sought new ways to allow people to access their desperately needed services. Thankfully, pre-existing technology opened a new door for mental and behavioral health support. Mobile devices like cell phones, smartphones, and tablets are giving the public, doctors, and researchers new ways to access help, monitor progress, and increase their understanding of mental wellbeing.
Throughout the pandemic, telehealth became the standard method for patient visits, largely due to the ease of access and use for patients and providers alike. As the patient experience during the telehealth visit continues to improve, there is reason to believe that in a post-pandemic world, access to behavioral healthcare could rely heavily on telehealth and telemedicine. A primary driving force is that the technology expands patient access, especially in rural areas.
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health found that there are positives and negatives with respect to incorporating technology and treatment:
Advantages of technology for behavioral health treatment:
- Anonymity: Patients can seek treatment without interacting with other people
- Introduction to treatment: Telehealth and telemedicine may be a good avenue for those who previously avoided behavioral healthcare.
- Lower cost: Several mental health and behavioral health Apps are free or cost less than traditional, in-person care
- Increased Access: In addition to expanding access to a wider geographical area, technology can provide 24/7 monitoring or support for behavioral health
- Comprehensive Care: Technology can complement traditional behavioral health treatments by extending an in-person session, reinforcing new skills, and providing automated monitoring
Disadvantages of technology for behavioral health treatment:
Researchers noted that there are drawbacks to the integration of technology for behavioral health treatment and it is certainly not for everyone. New mobile apps and other resources are continually being developed, and experts want to ensure the technology provides benefits without causing harm.
- Effectiveness: With endless options for mobile apps and technology aimed at improving mental health, gathering scientific data that the technology is effective is difficult
- False Hope: Researchers highlight that if an app or program promises more than it delivers, patients may lose trust in other, more effective therapies
- What Audience, What Purpose: Behavioral health experts need to have an understanding of which types of technology are effective for particular demographics or behavioral health conditions
- Privacy of Health Information: When it comes to any form of healthcare, there is a lot of sensitive personal information and the industry is becoming a target for ransomware attacks. Any type of technology that may store patient or provider information needs to be able to guarantee the security of the data.
Behavioral Health Treatment: What Lies Ahead
The need for behavioral health and mental health treatment undeniably skyrocketed during the pandemic and will continue to be needed for quite some time—yet there is a silver lining that emerged—awareness and acceptance surrounding behavioral health treatment. The stigma that previously existed decreased dramatically. People are understanding that it is completely fine to seek treatment and to talk about it openly with those they choose to.
With this increased use and acceptance of behavioral health treatment came action from the federal government. On March 17, 2020 the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it would waive potential penalties for HIPAA violations against healthcare providers that use common communication technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. The exercise of discretion applied to almost any communication technology when used in good faith for any telehealth treatment or diagnostic purpose, regardless of whether the telehealth service was directly related to COVID-19. This allowed behavioral health providers to utilize telehealth technology to treat their patients. Many experts believe that the HIPAA Enforcement Discretion is likely going to stay, allowing behavioral health providers to expand treatment options to their patients with technology they deem appropriate.
While providing the best treatment options for their patients, behavioral health providers must take advantage of resources available to them their practice. A proper medical credentialing platform is a must-have. Ready Doc™ reduces administrative workload allowing providers to spend more time on patient care. Best of all it is FREE!
Behavioral healthcare providers can also take accredited, online Continuing Medical Education courses which is a win-win for them and their patients. CME and CEU Courses help providers maintain compliance by meeting state licensure requirements and expand their knowledge base with relevant courses, such as “COVID-19: The Impact of a Pandemic on Mental Health: Providing Mental Health Interventions for Patients and Healthcare Workers.”
Get started with Ready Doc™ today and schedule a free demo online.