Efficient diagnostic tools can better address mental health in patients — and providers. Today, about one in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year. Many of these adults are your patients. And many others are your healthcare staff. This leaves healthcare organizations in the position of supporting patients who may struggle to get the care they need and supporting staff who may struggle to deliver proper care.
Growing burnout rates have led many healthcare providers to seek digital solutions to improve patient-centric care and reduce the burden on staff — and this change couldn’t have come soon enough. For example, some 100,000 registered nurses in the U.S. left their jobs due to pandemic-related stress, and nearly one in two psychologists (45%) reported feeling burned out in 2022.
“The need for mental health support has always been there, but the time to optimize mental health care is now, and assessments can help,” says Maria Brask, a healthcare consultant for Pearson, which provides digital assessment solutions for mental health screening. Brask, who spent over a decade working in hospitals as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), saw firsthand how lightening healthcare professionals’ workloads while assessing patients effectively can help healthcare systems become more patient- and provider-centric.
The need for more patient-centric support
Studies indicate that mental health impacts the trajectory of a patient’s healing journey. In one such study, researchers found that patients who reported higher levels of depression one month after their injury were at reduced odds of recovering within a year. From recognizing an undiagnosed mental health illness to ensuring a surgery patient can psychologically handle post-op care, assessments clarify patient needs.
Without support …
Patients without proper and proactive mental health support need more time to return to their lives. In one study of people who have or have had cancer, more than half (52%) of respondents with cancer felt there was support for the physical effects of their disease but not its emotional impact. A similar share of all respondents (58%) found the mental challenge of cancer more difficult to cope with than the physical treatment and side effects.
It’s not only cancer. Stroke survivors with early-onset depression (within three months of their stroke) are also at higher risk for remaining depressed. They make up two-thirds of the incident cases one year after a stroke.
When mental health isn’t prioritized, patients may need to return for additional follow-ups if their mental health deteriorates, or they may need to go elsewhere for specialized care. This puts a tremendous strain on patients, who are eager to heal, and on providers, who are tasked with caring for several patients at a time.
“Outcomes would be significantly better by managing mental health early and having the time for individualized care, rather than waiting weeks outside of the hospital when anxiety and depression are setting in,” Brask advises.
With optimized support …
Proper mental health support at the onset of care can lead to better long-term outcomes. “People are more motivated when their mental health is managed, and they can get back to their lives quicker because they know how to stay involved in their therapy,” Brask says.
Plus, patients can complete digital assessments virtually — before even meeting with a healthcare professional — to make the experience more efficient. And when the patient goes to the appointment, their provider can spend more time developing an individualized plan for recovery because they have access to those initial assessment-driven insights up-front.
The right assessments also ask critical questions to garner answers that patients might not share on their own, giving providers better insight into their patients and helping them put patients back into the center of their care.
The need for more provider-centric support
Healthcare workers are increasingly asked to do more with less, and the outlook is worrisome. Two-thirds of nurses reported high levels of job burnout in 2022, while 53% of physicians said the same (with emergency medicine being the highest at 65%). Digital tools can free up work hours otherwise spent on administrative tasks, enabling providers to spend more time discussing mental health needs with their patients.
Without support …
Without the proper tools, many healthcare workers may be overburdened with administrative tasks that hold them back from supporting the mental health of their patients. And this can negatively affect their mental health, too. Added work and stress led to 95% of nurses in one study saying their mental health was either not a priority for the healthcare industry or that it was, but the measures to support their mental health weren’t sufficient.
“Healthcare settings can benefit from digital assessment solutions because it lifts a huge burden by not having to sit and type and document — that’s a lot to ask of healthcare workers on top of care responsibilities,” Brask says. (As seen in one study, documentation can take up more than 35% of nurses’ time.)
With optimized support…
New tools introduced to practitioners might help them provide more efficient care. By reducing the hours spent on documentation (much of which still happens via paper and pencil), digital assessments can help clinicians optimize their time and the care they provide.
“Digital assessments may allow the clinician to get to more people, and this could save you valuable time per person,” Brask explains. “If you see five or six people daily, that quickly adds up.”
Not only does this allow healthcare workers to treat more patients, but it also allows healthcare workers to treat themselves better. “If all those needs are met, suddenly, I have 30 minutes back in my day to take a break or do something for myself,” Brask says. Given that research shows taking a break can improve well-being and performance, the extra time can be a game-changer.
Moving forward — with care
Healthcare systems committed to patient-centric care can significantly benefit from adding digital tools, like proven mental health assessments, to their toolbox. Between giving time back to providers and helping patients recover faster, there are numerous benefits to gain. Mental health shouldn’t be an afterthought but a forethought — digital assessments help providers do that.
For even more mental health support, visit Pearson’s Mental Health Resource Center, packed with content to help patients and providers thrive.