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Balance technology and human interaction to treat behavioral health

To effectively treat behavioral health, technology must be used in conjunction with the humanity of healthcare providers, says AbleTo CMO Reena Pande.

In part two of this two-part Q&A, AbleTo CMO Reena Pande explains why providers need to balance technology and human interaction to treat behavioral health conditions. In part one, Pande explained how behavioral healthcare benefits from health information sharing.

What do you think is the next step for behavioral health treatment?

Reena Pande, M.D.: I still think too few people are diagnosed and treated. And then even when they are diagnosed, there is not sufficient access to high quality and easily accessible care. To me, I think it's doing a better job at identifying the right people. Really raising the bar on recognition that this is an issue to identifying those folks and getting them directly to high quality resources is so key. 
I think that more technology, more digital will play into that, but I don't think honestly ... in behavioral healthcare you can really replace people. I feel there are efforts to move to [a] pure digital place. I think there's a population of people who are fine with that, and I think there's a huge population of people [for] whom some marriage of digital plus human is probably the exact right [amount]. What makes them digital, more digital and a little bit of human versus more human and a little bit of digital? I think we'll have to figure what works best for the right person. In the end, I think this is a part of healthcare where people are still invaluable in the delivery of care. 

Reena Pande, M.D.Reena Pande, M.D.

I think the other big thing is payment models. As we're moving to more value-based reimbursement, pay for performance, I don't see how at-risk organizations, risk-bearing entities, whatever you want to call them, can do that without tackling this massive issue. If you're depressed, it doesn't matter how much insulin you keep dialing. You can't keep dialing up the insulin enough to try to counter the effects of someone being depressed and not taking care of their health because of that. 
I think if you're going to be measured on someone's hemoglobin, and A1C, and their LDL and all of this stuff, it's almost irrelevant unless you address their behavioral health issues first and foremost as a prerequisite. I think that this is going to be an integral pillar to value-based care, as that part of our healthcare system grows, which will be fun to see. 
Do you think providers effectively balance technology and human interaction in behavioral health treatment?

Pande: I had that sense when I was still in practice that the needle has shifted so far over towards technology replacing people, and that was one of my frustrations. You can't just slap a Fitbit on every patient and expect that they're going to take the information they get and actually translate that into something meaningful or actionable in their own life. It doesn't work that way. 
My desire was to move the bar back a little. Technology is fantastic, digital is fantastic. If you can use that to enable the right people to get to the patient at the right time, complemented by digital tools or digital assets, now you're talking. 
It's okay to admit that ... the whole universe doesn't have to be replaced by technology. There are still parts where having the humanity of a provider is really key and important, and that's okay. 

In what ways do you think providers can improve how they balance technology and human interaction in the behavioral health space? Let me know -- find me on Twitter at @TaylaHolman or email me at [email protected].

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