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July 6, 2021

The mental health decline: How to diagnose, treat patients during a time of crisis

As of June 2021, there have been a confirmed 181,007,816 cases of Covid-19, with 3,927,222 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. But the impacts of the virus extend beyond those numbers. Morbidity and mortality rates in the U.S. have increased, and the stress of lockdowns and the pandemic as a whole has also had disastrous effects on mental health.

Across the country, individuals’ physical and social environments shifted dramatically during Covid, leading to higher rates of isolation and loneliness, financial hardship, housing and food insecurity, and interpersonal violence. In addition, recent data from the Census Bureau showed that as of December 2020, the number of adults reporting feelings of depression or anxiety jumped to 42 percent, compared to only 11 percent in previous years. Experts have also recognized increases in sleep issues, as well as alcohol and substance misuse—due mainly to uncertainty around job loss, work-from-home schedules, grief, and a loss of social cohesion as a result of lockdown restrictions.

How behavioral health integrations can stem the tide

With this influx of mental health conditions, and disparities among minority groups at an all-time high, solutions that better the care experience for those with behavioral health issues are in demand. Bright.md’s clinical interview for behavioral health is the fourth most-used module in our solution by patients among all of our customers—in fact, the module has more than doubled in patient usage in the last year.

Bright.md’s behavioral health module supports the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of disorders, including major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and encounters for mental health/behavioral health screening examination in patients 25 to 64 years of age. Treatment options include SSRIs, SNRIs, sleep aids, a referral to medication management, and a referral for therapy or counseling.

The solution works by first guiding the patient through a personalized clinical interview process to determine core complaints. From there, a measurement of patient responses is added to the chart note to help with diagnosis and inform proper treatment. This information is also added to the patient’s record. Patients then go on to report additional symptoms and social history, with questions that cover functional assessment, patient management of symptoms, and relevant social determinants of health. Family and social history questions help parse out contributing factors for the condition, as well as psychiatric and other medical comorbidities. History of mental health diagnosis and treatment is also gathered, along with treatment effectiveness and patient willingness to participate or comply with different treatment modalities.

Lastly, after answering questions related to medication allergies and any other medical conditions, patients complete the interview and a provider reviews the full chart note, diagnosis, and treatment plan. Within minutes, patients receive their After-Visit Summary from the physician, which includes a treatment plan, prescription instructions, and referral to medication management and/or therapy if needed. As a note, pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding patients will not receive pharmacologic treatment through the interview; instead, these patients would be given a referral to behavioral health or primary care.

The benefits of implementing virtual behavioral health solutions

So what can health systems expect after implementing a virtual solution that aids with behavioral health diagnoses? For starters, Bright.md’s solution for behavioral health has an NPS patient satisfaction score of 75—a high score that reflects the convenience of the tool, with patients completing the process in the comfort and privacy of their own home, whenever they may need. In addition, patients receive care within six minutes of completing the interview, on average. Bright.md also works to streamline administrative tasks, alleviating up to 90 percent of paperwork for physicians. In turn, health systems can limit the amount of burnout physicians experience, while also using technology to address issues like clinician shortages.

Users of the solution have also reported that referrals to additional services like therapy and psychiatric appointments are more likely to be followed up on from Bright.md’s platform than from a general PCP referral. Given patient stigma around seeking treatment, finding care can be a challenge. Studies have shown that patient reporting tends to be more truthful in a virtual environment, removed from interviewer judgment or perception of shame.

Interested in learning more about Bright.md’s behavioral health module and other offerings designed to help with issues like care navigation? Request a demo now and see what Bright.md can do for your organization.

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