Creating a Digital-First Approach to Behavioral Healthcare
// By Althea Fung //
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health. A Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 found that many adults reported difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions, due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.
But the stay-at-home orders made seeking in-person mental health treatment almost impossible. As a result, teletherapy saw a sharp increase. Services like Ginger, which offers text-based teletherapy and psychiatry, reported a 302 percent increase in usage by September 2020, compared to pre-COVID averages. Doctors on Demand also reported a 50 percent increase in new teletherapy patients.
“When I think of my 20-plus years in the field of child psychiatry, I think of some of the major changes our field has undergone in recent decades. I would say that the shift to digital is probably one of the most tectonically significant because it impacts millions and millions of people,” says Stuart Lustig, MD, national medical executive for behavioral health at Cigna, who participated in a recent webinar hosted by Happify Health.
The webinar, “What Does ‘Digital First’ Mean for Behavioral Health and Can It Help Avoid the Mistakes of the Past?” brought together three experts in the behavioral health and insurance space to discuss the state of digital behavioral health services, how to effectively provide care to patients virtually, and what barriers still exist to delivering mental healthcare to patients.
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