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Behavioral health data sharing drives push for better treatment

With the current free sharing of behavioral health information, patients are driving the push for increased access to treatment -- and providers and payers are paying attention.

In part one of this two-part Q&A, Reena Pande, M.D., CMO of national behavioral health provider AbleTo, explains the role behavioral health data sharing plays in proving outcomes and helping patients gain greater access to treatment. In part two, Pande explains why technology won't completely replace humans in behavioral health treatment.

You've said that there is a new push around behavioral healthcare to elevate its importance to overall health. To what would you credit the change in conversation?

Reena Pande, M.D.: I think a lot of it is coming from consumers and people. [There is] a lot more free sharing of information, not just in healthcare but across multiple parts of our communities. And I think that mental health is really falling in that, too. I think people are increasingly more open. At the payer level, I think health plans are also realizing that … their members are patients who have behavioral health conditions, but the cost to care for those members is significantly higher than members who don't have behavioral health conditions.
Take a cardiac patient with depression or someone with chronic pain with depression or anxiety, and they're realizing that, "Oh my, we have to think about this and be open about it, because it's costing the system two to three to four times as much to care for these members." We need to be bold and open up the conversation so that we can find more innovative ways to address behavioral health issues.
So part of the change is that patients are saying their doctors aren't meeting their needs and they want them to fix that?

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

Pande: Yeah. I think [that's] right. We all know that the emotional component of our health is so ... it's so important, and I'm guessing the vast majority of people probably feel like it's not being sufficiently addressed. Everybody has got a story about themselves or a family member where they saw this, and they knew they needed help, and they knew it in terms of their overall health and well-being. I think we as consumers -- I'll speak for myself even though I represent the provider too -- but as a consumer, I truly recognize that need, and that it's not been sufficiently addressed. I think it'll start there. Especially as we have more high-deductible health plans and more burden of decision-making placed on the shoulders of patients, I think that the consumer as a patient really is increasingly going to be a loud voice to try to drive change.

You've said that the onus is on providers to prove their product works and makes a difference. Does behavioral health data sharing, from patients and insurance payers, play a role in proving outcomes?

We need to be bold and open up the conversation so that we can find more innovative ways to address behavioral health issues.
Reena Pande, M.D., CMO of AbleTo

Pande: For me, the outcomes are paramount. I wouldn't feel good about myself to be here, talking about this stuff if we couldn't prove that it works. And to the huge credit of the people who were here before me who set this up at the outset, the company, it started with the philosophy that you've got to be able to measure, and you've got to be able to prove. Our scales around depression severity and anxiety severity, all that, they're big things to our platform that every patient that goes through gets a survey at the beginning, survey at the end, in between. 
We're also partnering with our health plan and employer partners to say, "Well, let's follow them afterwards with claims data," you know what I'm saying? Does this really keep people out of the hospital? Are they really using [fewer] resources? Are they visiting the ER less? We are seeing fewer admissions for a cardiac patient in the six-month follow up period. We're seeing fewer ER visits for our diabetic patients. Pain scores are improving for our chronic pain patients, so on and so forth. Whichever way we can look at it, we do, to try and prove that this stuff really is working.

Can increased behavioral health data sharing lead to improved patient outcomes? Let me know; email me at [email protected] or find me on twitter at @TaylaHolman.

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