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Top Telehealth Trends for Mental Healthcare in 2022

By: Starling Minds

Last updated: December 7, 2021

Introduction: Telehealth for Mental Health Today 

Telehealth will continue to disrupt the way leaders approach their workplace healthcare and employee wellness. In 2021, the biggest telehealth trends were dominated by the concept of delivering immediate, accessible, personalized mental healthcare to offset the impacts of the pandemic. In 2022, telehealth trends will shift to a new challenge: preventing the breakdown of existing delivery models plagued by accessibility, scalability and efficacy issues. Leaders will be investing further into telehealth solutions to help them deliver a complex, patient-centric blended care model incorporating a wide range of behavioral health offerings and analytical tools to combat the most common mental health diagnoses.

Many companies have already responded to this challenge with new services and acquisitions that leverage new ways of utilizing patient data, AI, and traditional and digital offerings to develop solutions and business models that can radically transform and improve behavioral healthcare.

The purpose of this trend report is to help telehealth providers and leaders uncover the trends that will shape the telehealth landscape in 2022 and beyond.

  1. Community-based mental healthcare
  2. A Hybrid Model of Face-to-Face and Digital
  3. Predictive analytics
  4. Interoperable data
  5. Behavioral Health

Community-based mental healthcare

As with physical, emotional, and psychological health, telehealth providers are doubling down on mental health offerings to tackle social health issues arising from the stigma associated with mental illness. Social health is more than just the prevention of mental illness and social well-being problems. Being socially healthy also means increased levels of happiness including a sense of belonging and concern for others within their community. 

One of the many things the pandemic has taught us is that we are social beings and are not meant to live in isolation. Social health and being accepted into a community are critical, especially for someone with mental illness who is already experiencing the common symptoms of loneliness and isolation.

Online communities have been described as one of the most transformational features in the digital health landscape. Within the telehealth space, communities are insightful spaces patients can find peer support as they move towards recovery. Many studies have shown that online health communities are places people turn to for support, social and emotional connection, and validation.

In 2022, telehealth providers will continue to tap into the human need for social and emotional connections, as well as compassion and validation by building or incorporating interactive communities within their existing programs.

A Hybrid Model of Face-to-Face and Digital

When it comes to mental health services, an enormous gap exists within our healthcare systems. Healthcare systems that rely on human-guided therapy are becoming unsustainable for today’s mental health demands and will likely intensify in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

With critical wait time, cost, and stigma barriers to effective mental healthcare, organizations are looking for innovative and creative delivery models and a combined care management strategy to improve access to affordable, immediate, and effective mental health support that meets each individual’s unique circumstances. 

Today, the hybrid approach is called the “Stepped Care Model”, coined in the UK and adopted by other countries, including Australia, the United States, and Canada. This hybrid model integrates a more flexible, patient-centric approach to mental health, combining a range of traditional and emerging digital mental health interventions to systematically determine care options for individuals at the right time, with the right therapy, in the right context. The model focuses on triaging individuals based on their therapy history, condition, preferences, functioning, and readiness to engage with therapy, instead of only the diagnosis or symptom severity. 

For example, hybrid models can triage more severe mental health conditions to face-to-face therapists, leaving mild to moderate cases to digital and telehealth options. The advantage of the stepped care model is that it maximizes the effectiveness and efficiency of support by optimizing resource allocation. It is one of the key trends in preventing the breakdown of existing mental health delivery models by utilizing the right mental health offerings to prevent the overtreatment or undertreatment of patients. 

Predictive analytics

Exploring data has always helped us better understand the world around us. In recent years, more leaders and telehealth providers have focused on the importance of analyzing workforce health policies based on value and effectiveness. This analytical model is critical in identifying employees’ greatest health issues and transforming care models to mitigate them. By including clinical evidence, real-world data, and patient perspectives during mental health assessments, leaders will be able to make smarter healthcare decisions and develop policies that add value to employees and the bottom line. 

However, new analytics models will need to examine beyond past events to anticipate and strategically shape future projections. As a result, predictive analytics will continue to become more important for improving behavioral health policies as future models take in large amounts of data for an individual to forecast their response to specific treatments, their risk of developing a certain illness, and their prognosis for a given condition. These predictive models will help identify where the most timely and effective investments will need to be made in order to sustain and innovate delivery care models.

Interoperable data

Within the telehealth space, data sharing derived from fully interoperable health data will be critical in delivering and sustaining a patient-centric care model. Interoperable data is a collection of holistic personal health data, including lifestyle information of the patient to help identify issues and comorbidity risks. It enables the aggregation of data lakes so that artificial intelligence can be applied to predict the early onset of behavioral disorders and recommend interventions to improve behavioral health outcomes. The more data sources that come together because of interoperability, the better.

Social media data will also be collected as part of a patient’s holistic personal health record. For example, in 2022, more than four billion people will use social media, generating huge amounts of data from their devices. Over the past few years, a growing number of studies have shown that language patterns and images in posts can predict an individual’s mental health struggles and evaluate mental health trends across entire populations. In an age of AI, natural language processing and other data science tools, researchers, telehealth, governments, and other organizations will make use of large social media databases to look for signs of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and burnout. 

These changes needed to create better data sharing are already underway. For example, Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Pinterest have all committed to supporting data interoperability by publishing or creating open-source, cloud-based software solutions and searching functionality to support greater interoperability.

Today, more researchers and telehealth providers are using smartphones and wearables to create more representative data pools of individuals and their daily interactions impacting their mental health. By harnessing real-time data, researchers will have access to information from people in their natural day-to-day lives rather than in the artificial environment of a typical lab. 

Behavioral Health

Behavioral health support is at the core of mental health trends in 2021 and in 2022, will be essential in helping us understand how mental and behavioral health are connected. Behavioral health is mental health, which looks at how behaviors impact someone’s health — physical and mental. 

A variety of disruptive technology is already emerging to support the new delivery models needed within the behavioral health ecosystem: 

  • Virtual assistants are AI chatbots and emotion-based algorithms that provide psychological support (often based on evidence-based techniques), information, and resources using a natural interaction.
  • Digital consumer experience technologies are platforms that manage the patient relationship, monitor and exchange health information between patient and caregivers, and connect the patient with additional tools to enhance their health experiences. 
  • Diagnostic support technologies are screening tools, both self-guided and assisting medical diagnosis, that gather diagnostic data and provide the psychological assessment to identify symptoms for early detection and improved classification.

By extension, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that helps individuals understand how their thoughts, behaviors, and physiology affect how they feel. It is rooted in the theory that thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behaviors are all connected and that there is no health without physical and mental health — a lesson many were taught in social isolation. 

Behavioral health support will be a go-to intervention to help people understand their mental health, and take that self-awareness to develop strategies and tools to manage it constructively without forming unhealthy coping mechanisms. CBT is a key therapy approach to helping employees build the mental health resilience they need to handle daily forms of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Summary

According to our research and insights, the five trends within the telehealth landscape are:

  • Community-based mental healthcare
  • A Hybrid Model of Face-to-Face and Digital
  • Predictive analytics
  • Interoperable data
  • Behavioral Health

Looking at the rise in telehealth options, it has become clear that leaders are choosing to learn more about its benefits and delivering efficient, accessible, and affordable help previously limited by more traditional models that rely on face-to-face therapy and EAPs. 

The rise in telehealth is due to leaders understanding that stigma, accessibility, and costs are barriers employees can’t tackle on their own and it’s up to employers to offer innovative mental health resources and benefits built for today’s workplaces.

Starling Minds

Starling Minds™ is a digital mental health platform that reduces absence and disability costs by delivering immediate, unlimited, and personalized digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Developed by leading psychologists, Starling’s digital therapy is powered by an expert system that emulates the processes and practices of human-guided therapy to remove the greatest barriers preventing employees from accessing affordable and effective mental health care—cost, access, and stigma.

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