- Digital health technologies are changing the way providers treat mental health disorders and enabling more people to get care, according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan.
- Growth rates for telehealth, virtual reality, mHealth apps and wearables are expected to be in the double digits over the next five years, altering the way psychiatric disorders are diagnosed, treated and managed.
- Globally, the Americas rank fourth in behavioral health burden and second in behavioral health-related hospital admissions, but last in post-discharge follow-up with a rate of 34%, the report says.
One of the strengths of telehealth and other digital strategies is the avoidance of negative stigma around behavioral health issues. Remote therapy also allows people to be treated in regions with limited healthcare services or with poor transportation.
“An important aspect of evolving technology trends is the potential for convergence,” Frost & Sullivan analyst Siddharth Shah said in a statement. “For instance, smartphone applications can use the phone camera for emotion recognition, backed by deep learning and artificial intelligence technologies. A combined therapy approach employing telehealth for remote consults, virtual reality for remote therapy, and smartphone apps for self-management will greatly enhance outcomes.”
One company riding the behavioral health wave is Huntsville, AL-based Sequel Youth and Family Services, which focuses on behavioral health issues in teens but is expanding services to adult clients, Modern Healthcare reports. The company, which offers 44 programs, plans an initial public offering in April after completing its sale to Global Partner Acquisition Corp. for $423 million.
For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, Sequel had revenues of $208 million. That could exceed $254 million this year, thanks to three acquisitions since June. This is but one example how the behavioral health market could grow in the coming years. However, Republican plans to repeal the ACA could jeopardize growth in behavioral health. Roughly 20 million Americans stand to lose health insurance if the ACA is repealed, including the one in five — or 4 million — with a mental health condition, The Huffington Post notes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the uninsured rate for people with serious psychological disorders declined from 28.1% in 2012, when Obamacare was enacted, to $19.5% in 2015.
The ACA not only requires most plans sold on its exchanges to offer behavior health coverage, providing parity with other serious illnesses, but also bars carriers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions. Scrapping Obamacare could roll the clock back to discriminatory and costly private health plans, according to The Nation.