How we Disrupt Behavioral Health

This story originally appeared on LinkedIn on April 3, 2017.

By Jonathan Stout, SVP of Strategy and Business Development, AbleTo


Confession from a strategy guy: terms like ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’ are losing their luster. But I’d argue that when used in the right circumstance, they are the perfect words.

A few months ago my company declared that we were going to ‘disrupt behavioral (aka mental) health.’ So what did we mean? What about the mental health system needed to be disrupted (and why did we claim we could deliver)?

Today is the start of NatCon 2017, one of the biggest weeks of innovation in our industry, and a great time to share our road map.

I’ll start with a comparison that many in health care will remember from about 15 years ago. Disease management was coined as a term by companies like Healthways and Health Dialog to curb the costs of high risk/cost chronic patients. These programs were designed to help patients better manage their care and typically focused on symptom management associated with the patient’s medical condition. While cost effective, it is clear now that co-morbid mental health conditions not only drive risk, but they create disproportionate medical spend and are often the root cause of this increased utilization and healthcare spend.

As we begin to use mental conditions as a driver of intervention and not just a driver of risk, the overall need for behavioral support will increase, and in a positive way. Spending a few dollars more on mental health support will have a disproportionate impact on overall healthcare spend.

In order to effectively address this demand and assure that it is being properly deployed in a way that lowers overall cost, there are several essential elements that encompass this new model of integrated care.

  • Analytics need to focus on root cause of medical spend for individuals struggling with mental health conditions.
  • Engagement strategy that meets individuals where they are in the way that makes most sense for them. This requires engagement across modalities.
  • Tech-enabled support and treatment options that will effectively and efficiently improve an individual’s health and cost over time and create better “investors in one’s health.”
  • Removing all barriers of access to quality mental health care, e.g., financial barriers, stigma, and ease of delivery.
  • Reimbursement structures that allow for adequate mental health investments and generate sustained savings over time.

The exciting aspect is that tomorrow’s solutions are available today. Each of the above capabilities are in practice today. The challenge is how to scale mental health support in months, not years. AbleTo is up for the challenge — connect with me if you are interested in our journey so far.

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