The demand for mental and behavioral health keeps climbing, but providers remain underserved and prone to burning out. While telemedicine is stabilizing post-pandemic, stress and anxiety remain high while substance use rises. There are some trends to watch out for as the year progresses and we look to the future. Some of these trends indicate where the industry is heading, while others are things we need to fix before they get ingrained too deeply.
During the pandemic, both providers and their clients had to start relying on technology when in-person visits became difficult to do. While telehealth rates are stabilizing, the convenience and reach of teletherapy are here to stay.
People are also relying on apps and technology to manage rising anxiety and depression, whether they use meditation, journaling or even using their patient portal to communicate with their therapist between sessions.
As healthcare gets more digitized, new practices are more likely to adopt an EHR like TheraNest rather than use pen and paper records, while existing practices are slower to adopt due to budget and time constraints. Providers are using data from their EHR to make better business decisions and use their resources more efficiently while enjoying the convenience of automated reminders and streamlined workflows. Some providers don’t have physical offices at all, choosing to use work-from-home and telehealth to practice. This data is also expected to be used by insurance companies to create specialized plans and work more closely with providers.
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There could be a rise in independent health contractors using work-from-home and telehealth to supplement existing practices without having to find people who live nearby. For providers, the challenge will be properly classifying these workers to comply with labor regulations. While being an independent contractor could help mental and behavioral health professionals find more opportunities, they’ll have to be cautious about the benefits they will receive in these roles.
Health Disparities Are Growing
Unfortunately, health disparities are only growing, and that includes mental health. While Black and Hispanic individuals experience higher levels of anxiety and depression than their white peers, they have access to fewer resources and struggle to receive the help they need. While this deficiency was highlighted during the pandemic, it continues to grow.
Most professionals in the mental and behavioral health industry are white, which can affect a client’s willingness to get counseling or their relationship with their therapist. Because people of color struggle to get resources and funding, it can be difficult for them to start working in the mental and behavioral health industry, which is also famous for being overworked and underpaid, making it challenging to attract new students who must spend considerable time and money to learn these skills.
Employee Well-Being Plans
Between the pandemic and the high rate of burnout across all industries, employers are starting to focus more on mental health. They’re more likely to offer plans that include mental and behavioral health services, and some larger employers even include counselors or therapists to help their staff retain their well-being in addition to gyms or smoke-cessation programs. This could help improve access to mental health care and reduce burnout. Normalizing mental health care as essential rather than an additional service can go a long way towards improving the way we care for people.
Value-based care keeps growing in 2022. More and more practices are transitioning, but it remains a challenge to fully transition. Solo and small practitioners can also struggle to adopt these practices. While value-based care remains long-term, there are some concerns it could be implemented poorly, as the mental and behavioral health care industry is particularly challenging due to the wide variety and uniqueness of clients and how they respond to treatment. But if leaders in the industry can plan ahead, there could be an effective framework in place.
Measuring outcomes is also going to keep growing, as payers demand to see actionable results and competition for funding gets tougher. This is also more challenging for mental and behavioral health professionals since they are often limited in time and resources when conducting sessions. Documentation needs are expected to grow alongside to provide measurable results even long-term.
Laws and Regulations
With the rise of technology and the growing need for mental and behavioral health services, parity laws are on the rise and so is their enforcement. While they might vary from state to state, there are some regulations across the board that need to be followed for companies to remain compliant. While a lot of these regulations are primarily going to focus on preventing limiting and excluding applied behavioral analysis, autism, and substance use recovery services, mental and behavioral health providers should see fewer issues relating to limitations on services or outright exclusion.
Other laws, like the No Surprise Act, are helping consumers who have issues with rising healthcare costs and “surprise bills”. In addition to helping consumers, laws like these could drive cost transparency in the industry and make mental health care more accessible.
Mental and physical health affect each other, and it’s more and more evident that the two need to be treated alongside each other. To improve accessibility, mental and behavioral health providers are slowly getting more integrated into traditional primary healthcare settings to keep costs down and increase consumer satisfaction.
Mental and behavioral health is also getting more integrated into substance use recovery services. That means insurance coverage and reimbursement could become more accessible.
Psychedelics in Controlled Settings
In recent years, psychedelics have gained more mainstream acceptance and as such are being studied for their potential impact on mental and behavioral health. While there is a lot more work to be done to ascertain the effect of psychedelics in controlled settings, they could help struggling clients achieve breakthroughs and open their minds. Their impact on PTSD is of particular interest, with clinical trials showing promising results. Psychedelic-based treatments could one day become another treatment option. For now, more studies are getting done, while experts predict it could become legalized in some areas and there could be a movement like cannabis legalization in the coming years.
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