Access to mental health care is limited and not widely available to the majority of citizens in the US.
COVID brought with it many tragedies, one of which is a mental health crisis due to the increase in isolation and loneliness. However, the number of mental health patients has been increasing steadily well before COVID. Since the year 2000, the percentage of mental health patients per capita has increased considerably. In 2020, adults aged 18 or older with any mental issue (AMI) numbered an estimated 52.9 million in the United States alone. This is 21.0% of all adults in the United States.
Social Media use is another notable cause of mental illness, especially among children and young adults. Studies show that spending more than 3 hours a day on Social Media puts adolescents at a much higher risk of mental illness and that 25% of young adults aged 18 to 25 report some sort of mental illness.
Access to mental health care is limited and not widely available to the majority of citizens in the US. Every day millions of Americans struggle to find care for mental health issues. Almost half of Americans with AMI go without getting any treatment, and those who do get care are forced to make their way through an expensive and fragmented treatment system with many obstacles. Even with the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008, significant roadblocks remain, keeping those in need from accessing mental health treatment. Most treatment options are out of network, so patients having to pay out of pocket will forgo the expense and opt not to get treatment at all.
Due to the increase in need for mental health treatment, the demand for developing mental health care apps is fast growing, as is the funding and investments supporting these initiatives. Digital solutions are absolutely necessary to provide mental health care to the millions of underserved patients in the United States and beyond. The COVID pandemic brought about the adoption of Telehealth services and virtual doctor visits in digital applications.
Digital applications can and should be used to treat patients with mental health issues as well. If patients can access treatment services at the touch of a button on a digital mental health care app, they are more likely to utilize treatment services. Digital mental health care services can be most helpful to vulnerable populations from the lower socio-economic demographic.
Several free and subscription based non-managed health applications have seen success. Headspace is one such application that offers “guided lessons” on mindfulness, sleep and overall mental health. Calm is another app that has gained popularity. Calm aims to improve sleep quality, lower stress, improve focus and drive overall self-improvement. Non-managed apps such as these have a wide reach, lower overall cost and empower people to take charge of their own personal mental health.
Digital mental healthcare apps can accomplish something that is difficult to do with purely in-person methods - providing access to care and starting on a path to greater equity of care.
A good example of fully managed, therapist-led digital mental health care is TalkSpace. TalkSpace offers individuals, couples and teens tele-health therapy, as well as psychiatric medication management.
Research supports a hybrid approach as a very effective Digital Mental Health app model, where a self-managed tool/app is used between therapy/managed sessions. Hybrid models of such resources and access can then be spaced wider apart making this approach almost as effective as fully managed, therapy led Telehealth care. That is how we can approach shortening the gap between need and care, while delivering the best possible outcomes.
With the proven success of the above-mentioned apps and the overall need for mental health care, one can see that digital mental health care is becoming widely accepted as a valuable alternative to in-person care. Medical Groups can also benefit from a non-managed custom mental health app that offers access to their specific providers. Digital mental healthcare apps can accomplish something that is difficult to do with purely in-person methods – providing access to care and starting on a path to greater equity of care.
ActiveColor is a leader in digital app development and can build a customized mental health app to serve any purpose whether that be non-managed, fully-managed or hybrid.
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