iPatientCare Blog - Key challenges faced in Behavioral and Mental Healthcare

Key challenges faced in Behavioral and Mental Healthcare

More and more patients are struggling with mental illness than ever before. Mental health and behavioral issues are far more common than most people realize. Patients all across the country experience some sort of psychological problems and disorders every day. But instead of visiting the doctor like they might for some other disease, these individuals face considerable patient access barriers. This results in keeping them out of the mental healthcare setting. Mental illness, being a chronic disease can have deadly consequences if not adequately treated.

Some quick facts and data representing the state of US mental healthcare system

  1. 51 percent of providers said their organization’s mental and behavioral healthcare offerings are not specialty-specific. Hence they are not able to fully meet the needs of their unique patient populations.
  2. 33 percent of doctors said fragmentation of care is a barrier. For 32 percent, lack of access to specialty care is a significant hindrance.
  3. U.S. has approximately 25,000 practicing psychiatrists, but there are an estimated 40 million Americans who require psychiatric care each year.
  4. More than 44 million American adults have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, and rates of severe depression are worsening among young people.
  5. A 2018 survey from the National Council on Behavioral Health (NCBH) showed that 56 percent of patients want to access a mental healthcare provider, but many face care barriers.

The behavioral and mental healthcare delivery system designed to address psychological disorders remains broken. Fixing that system requires infrastructure support and clinician capacity to serve both existing and future demand. It moreover requires developing and escalating integrated, evidence-based care mechanisms that are supported by data aggregation, outcome tracking, and reimbursement-enabling innovations.

Some common barriers to behavioral care implementation are:

  1. Poor system compatibility
  2. High hardware and software costs
  3. Poor design in the software interface
  4. Lack of IT support
  5. Inadequate training
  6. Fragmented workflow

There are different complexities in managing different types of healthcare specialties. But those that work in mental and behavioral health face distinct challenges.

  1. Usability Challenges of EHR: Psychiatrists have very specific needs with respect to the way an EHR works for their practice. The unique needs presented by a psychiatry practice’s patient population require a specialty-specific psychiatry EHR. It includes sophisticated features about patient data sharing, monitoring care, and medications, and providing patient engagement features. Finding the right fit is difficult because EHR software features vary widely. Only specialty-specific EHR can meet the pressing needs of mental health professionals.
  2. Lack of Integration: In many cases, a Psychiatry electronic health record platform doesn’t integrate properly with other healthcare facilities. For EHR information-sharing to work seamlessly, the healthcare systems must communicate effectively, whenever and wherever needed. Disconnected systems result in tons of scattered data and disjointed reports, which causes difficulty in putting their EHR systems to optimal use. Further, it also leads to a significant decrease in practice efficiency, revenue, and patient care.
  3. Lack of Clinical Safety: It is challenging for providers and practices when EHRs do not support confidentiality. People with mental illness face unique patient safety issues when receiving healthcare. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of awareness about these unique issues among healthcare providers and patients. Besides, there is also a lack of evidence related to these issues. Patient confidentiality needs to be protected through the use of separate clinical records and billing systems. Contrary, the separation of systems can make the coordination of care more difficult.
  4. Inability to manage separate psychotherapy notes: There are therapy and workflow concepts that do not exist in any other venue in healthcare but psychiatry. For example, group and private therapy require a specific type of documentation. Residential and partial-hospitals also have unique documentation and billing requirements. All these documentation needs to be tied back to the treatment plan. Psychiatrists need solutions that provide this flexibility, including options for group note documentation.
  5. Lack of Standardization of Data: Standardized data facilitate electronic data collection at the point of care, retrieval of relevant information, data reuse for multiple purposes. Although standardized measures for health outcomes have been established, the incorporation of such measures into standardized concepts has lagged compared to measures for problems and interventions.
  6. Lack of Psychiatric Services – Shortage of mental health professionals: Insufficient access to psychiatric services has been a challenge for decades. It has resulted in significant delays in treatment with consequences like the reduced quality of care, low patient satisfaction, poor patient outcomes, and higher costs. Psychiatrists providing mental health services at any level don’t have enough capacity to take care of the increasing demand.
  7. Financial Barriers: For many individuals, a lack of financial resources prevents them from seeking help at all. For others, a lack of financial resources can lead to inconsistent or incomplete treatment. Even with insurance or financial assistance, mental healthcare services are costly. Co-pays and deductibles add up quickly when a diagnosis requires regular therapy, complicated medication management, or intensive treatment programs.
  8. Fragmented Care: Aggregating and combining data properly allows a practice to leverage it to expose and correct inefficiencies in operations. A fragmented view of a person’s medical information exponentially increases the cost of care. It particularly happens to those individuals who have comorbid physical conditions like diabetes or chronic heart disease.

The Psychiatric health care field has begun to understand the multiple problems that exist – from the perspective of both the doctors and patients. They’ve begun to formulate and execute steps to transition into the adoption of advanced technology for the interoperable exchange of information.

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