Technology Needed for Integrated Behavioral Health Care

Integrated behavioral health, the total care for medical conditions and related behavioral health factors, is a critical whole-person care model. Providing integrated behavioral health is more important than ever, and implementing the right technology is a necessity.

Technology is an integral part of providing comprehensive, integrated behavioral healthcare and has been shown to boost patient engagement and health outcomes. It empowers patients to manage their conditions and treatments by having the ability to share their history, care plan, and general health information with their entire care team across multiple organizations.

Approximately 26% of the US population experiences behavioral health issues, which can be brought on by a variety of conditions, spanning from substance use disorder to heart disease. Managing the continuum of care through the use of technology allows patients to experience a seamless and more effective health journey.

Let’s dive into what integrated behavioral health entails and what technology is needed to provide it successfully.

What does integrated behavioral health entail?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, integrated behavioral healthcare is defined as “a team of primary care and behavioral health clinicians working together with patients and families to provide patient-centered care for a defined population.”

Integrated behavioral health is a team approach to patient-centered care, focusing on treating the patient as a whole — both physically and mentally. Think of it as a patient, their support system, and their care team all working together to create the best care for the patient’s total health and well-being.

Integrated behavioral health helps coordinate and manage the treatment of:

  • Behavioral issues related to chronic illness
  • Physical health issues brought on by stress and other mental health conditions
  • Substance use disorders

What technology is needed for integrated behavioral health?

Behavioral healthcare is a common and significant part of many patients’ health journeys. As such, clinicians must give technology a central role in integrated behavioral health.

Integrated behavioral health often requires close coordination and communication with multiple providers as well as patients and their families. Technology must be utilized efficiently to ensure all teams are on the same page and care plans are being managed and followed accordingly.

Technology allows care teams to keep patients engaged in their health journey through increased touch-points, ensuring no patient gets left behind.

Let’s explore some of the ways technology can help facilitate the most effective integrated behavioral care plan.

Direct messaging

The ability to communicate with patients directly is beneficial to integrated behavioral health coordination. Patients benefit from — and feel supported by — being able to reach their care teams quickly. Getting their questions answered or updates on test results promptly gives patients peace of mind, which can ultimately foster stronger trust, satisfaction, and better health outcomes. Direct communication also promotes plan adherence and retention. Utilizing direct messaging can allow care teams to stay connected with their patients, flag issues quickly, elevate crises, and swiftly make assessments to help patients get back on track.

Direct messaging includes:

  • Text messages, SMS, MMS
  • Software platform communication hub messages (i.e., an app or a portal)
  • Appointment reminders
  • Test results and provider reports
  • Asynchronous secure email
  • Web-based or patient-facing chat

Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring is a convenient and efficient option for integrated behavioral healthcare. It allows providers and care teams to closely manage a patient’s condition without needing patients to physically travel to the provider’s office. Clinicians can screen and treat behavioral health conditions remotely through technology like RPM devices. The data obtained from these tools can help create a seamless care plan while facilitating communication between patients and multiple care teams.

Telehealth services

While the Covid-19 pandemic made telehealth a more commonplace practice, it has become a service that more patients and providers are now utilizing regularly. Patients benefit from telehealth services by eliminating the need to commute or spend hours in waiting rooms. Telehealth appointments are also generally easier to obtain than in-person visits. For patients with chronic conditions, the ease and convenience of speaking to a provider from the comfort of their own home is an invaluable process. Care teams benefit as well since telehealth allows them to meet with more patients in a day.

Electronic health information exchange (HIE)

Electronic health information exchange (HIE) plays a vital role in how technology benefits integrated behavioral healthcare. HIE allows all care teams to securely view and share patient medical data electronically, including Personal Health Records (PHR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR). This technology allows every member of a patient’s care team to stay on the same page — in real-time. Suppose a patient’s recent test results indicate a spike in blood pressure. In that case, the report can be shared with the behavioral health provider quickly so the care team can implement whole-person care. HIE also improves the speed, quality, safety, and costs for the patient and the healthcare system.

Care Management or CRM system

Implementing a CRM platform is a vital part of offering patient-centered care, but non-care-specific CRM systems are not the best option for integrated behavioral healthcare. They can often be too bulky for what care teams need for this model of care. Adopting a care-specific CRM like Welkin’s can enable care teams to provide the most comprehensive continuum of care by seamlessly keeping track of all patient health data, communication, and important updates, and securely share patient information with the full care team.

A care-specific CRM platform like Welkin’s can further promote health plan adherence. It allows for personalizing treatment details with patients — every element of the care plan can be personalized at an individual level. It also offers the flexibility to adjust the plan along the way, to better accommodate each individual patient’s needs and progress.

Start utilizing technology to support integrated behavioral healthcare

Having the right technology in place is one of the best ways to ensure your team can offer successful integrated behavioral healthcare to all patients. By implementing the right tools, your care team can boost patient engagement and enhance patient health outcomes. Patients will be empowered to take an active role in their health journey when access to their care and information is readily available.

Now that you know how vital technology is to the integrated behavioral healthcare model — and what technology is needed — it’s time to start adopting these tools. The first place to start should be a comprehensive, care-specific Care Management system that can house everything your care team needs. Visit our Behavioral Health Solutions page to learn more about Welkin’s CRM for integrated behavioral healthcare.

Make your program more care-centric today.

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