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3 Steps to Follow During Virtual Mental Health Assessment | AHA

Earlier this month, digital therapy company Limbix launched a partnership with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) to evaluate a virtual treatment for adolescents known as SparkRx.

Through a study with CHLA, Limbix plans to gather information about SparkRx, which provides an adjunctive treatment intervention for patients with depression between the ages of 13 and 22. The self-guided intervention is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy. For its part, Limbix focuses on providing effective and accessible mental health services to younger patients.

Young people drive increased mental health spending

The CHLA study is the latest of many efforts to assess the value and limitations of the growing number of telehealth apps and offerings designed to meet the needs of patients accessing mental health services, especially young people. .

This last sector – patients under 25 – accounts for a slow but steady increase in mental health and addictions spending, according to a recent study. Report from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI). EBRI’s seven-year survey of employer-sponsored health plans found that:

  • Spending on mental health and addictions issues has increased from 6.8% of total health care costs in 2013 to 8.2% in 2020.
  • While making up 36% of the population, people under the age of 25 accounted for 42% of mental health and addiction treatment spending in 2020.
  • People under 18 are becoming the biggest consumers of mental health.

Virtual platforms aim to bridge the care gap

Using virtual platforms – from telehealth to apps – to treat behavioral health and substance use disorders can solve some problems in the delivery process. For example, research has shown that telehealth can improve care access and outcomes, reduce health disparities and stigma, and alleviate labor shortages.

Indeed, Headspace Health’s recent acquisition of Shine, an app committed to serving members of marginalized communities, will help Headspace advance its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts. For these and other reasons, there has been significant growth in the development and release of virtual platforms.

Clinically appropriate and evidence-based virtual treatment options offer hope to improve access to care for all ages. This couldn’t be more important for young Americans who need these services. The AHA advocates for children’s rights through the Sound the alarm for the kids initiative, a partnership to raise awareness of the current national emergency in youth mental health.

For example, there are now between 8,000 and 9,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists treating children and adolescents in the United States, or 10 child psychiatrists for every 100,000 children. Estimates, however, show that we need 47 psychiatrists for every 100,000 children and adolescents. And the results of a study published at the end of 2019 by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that despite the overall growth in the number of child psychiatrists between 2007 and 2016, there “remains a shortage” of these practitioners, particularly in areas with low revenue.

3 steps to select mental health apps

The expansion of virtual platforms for mental and behavioral health care is welcome, but with such rapid growth comes the challenge of determining which platforms or programs are evidence-based. Hospital and health system leaders need to determine which are clinically appropriate for specific populations and patients.

Here’s how provider organizations can help shape the development and use of mental health apps and platforms.

1 | Proceed with caution.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) urges health officials to exercise caution when using apps. That of the association Application Advisor offers resources to help clinicians and their patients make informed decisions about apps and provides guidance on how apps can be dangerous or cause harm.

2 | Make your voice heard.

The APA has an App Review Model that provides a systematic way to determine whether a mental health app is appropriate for use in clinical practice. Users provide input through app ratings. The goal is not to rate apps or rate them, but to provide examples of how different reviewers view the product.

3 | Support employees on their journey.

In 2020, Kaiser Permanente has launched a resource to help other provider organizations select applications for their corporate wellness programs. The resource offers tips for narrowing your search, weighing the pros and cons of self-guided apps versus coaching apps and more.

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