People standing in puzzle pieces. Symbolizing integration of various segments of healthcare.

Manatt and the American Medical Associate are working closely together in order to create a better system to push for behavioral health integration (BHI) through digitally enabled care. 

There is an incredible need for behavioral health integration (BHI) in our healthcare systems. Many companies are working to achieve this through the use of digital care. Manatt and the American Medical Associate are working closely together in order to create a better system to serve the needs of behavioral health care. They have their own ideas and perspectives, but by working cohesively, they can supply a positive push for BHI through digitally enabled care. 

Manatt's Role in Integrating Behavioral Health

Manatt is an integrated health services firm composed of a diverse team of more than 160 healthcare professionals, including lawyers, MBAs, financial experts, and consultants. It combines the rigor of legal thinking with strategic and project management disciplines.

Manatt works with a wide array of healthcare industry organizations to help them to achieve their strategic goals at the intersection of health and technology. They work with different kinds of clients and health systems on digital and telehealth strategic planning. They also work with various states on telehealth policy design and implementation. 

American Medical Association's Role in Integrating Behavioral Health

The American Medical Association leads the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises. They work to remove obstacles that interfere with patient care. They drive the future of medicine by tackling the biggest challenges in health care and training the leaders of tomorrow. AMA has investigated the challenges of incorporating virtual care or telehealth to accelerate the adoption of behavioral health integration.

COVID-19 has brought attention to the dire need to expand and adopt behavioral health integration (BHI). This BHI is essential to solving the nation's growing behavioral health crises. There are digital tools, such as telehealth, that can be integrated to accelerate the BHI adoption process and help remove barriers to timely access to care. 

By working with all their stakeholders, they can identify opportunities and practical solutions to advancing the adoption and overall effectiveness of digitally-enabled BHI. 

Barriers to Behavioral Health Integration (BHI)

The AMA has noted that many barriers are preventing the BHI's forward movement. Widespread adoption by physicians and practices seems to be the exception, rather than the standard, across our country, due to several barriers facing physicians' practices. These barriers include high startup costs, as well as low reimbursement levels, complicated billing requirements, and limited workforce availability. There are also some difficulties estimating behavioral health integration's net effects, particularly around their financing. Estimating the return on investment with behavioral health integration is also very difficult. 

Manatt has noted another significant barrier: the obvious shortage of behavioral health providers and primary care specialists. There is also a need for adequate payment to providers to cover the costs associated with adopting, implementing, and delivering BHI. Another significant barrier is the regulations, both federal and state, that prevent or limit providers from sharing information across team members or between behavioral health providers and non-behavioral health providers. Other limiting factors, like prior authorizations required by health insurance, can impact the BHI. This can result in administrative burdens that make it more challenging to adopt this model. 

The Future of Behavioral Health Integration = Technology

Technology can identify key opportunities and limitations along the BHI patient journey. Screenings, intake, and clinical decision support tools and telehealth delivery are all possibilities. When appropriately applied, these tools can enhance the patient's engagement and treatment. Also, supporting integration while limiting fragmentation of care or whole-person care ultimately generates value for the patients and physician practices that support them. 

AMA notes that technology should augment, but not replace, the longitudinal patient relationship. This will only partially replace the need for in-person interactions or the patient assessment that can be needed. It should be noted that the use of BHI is only clinically appropriate for some available people, and it will only work for some. Some patients and providers have preferences regarding the use of technology and can even lack digital literacy or broadband access, in addition to other factors as well. There is also a lack of robust clinical or economic evidence regarding the impact specifically technology solutions have within BHI models that can impact coverage decisions. 

Manatt states that there is the capability to increase behavioral health diagnosis and treatment rates by incorporating evidence-based digital health solutions and enabling technologies into standard workflows. There is also an opportunity to implement technologies that facilitate better connections and care coordination across care team members, enabling highly collaborative care. There is an added chance to increase BHI training for primary care specialists and behavioral health providers by incorporating digitally-enabled BHI into standard curricula at universities, schools of medicine, and others. There is an opportunity to raise the provisions of evidence-based treatment into best practice standards by adopting and integrating standard measurement tools into provider and patient-facing technologies by promoting data-driven continuous quality improvement. 

Health payors have a tremendous role to play in the adoption of BMI. By ensuring sufficient payment for BHI, they can support practices to our seeking to adopt the integration. They can also help to reduce the financial barriers that patients experience. These payors can help by expanding coverage and fair payments for all stakeholders utilizing the collaborative care model and other BHI models that facilitate care management and transitions of care for patients with behavioral health conditions. Another benefit that these payors can add is to allow equal payment for in-person and telehealth behavioral health services that are delivered via audio or video telehealth technologies. They also can make telehealth care more affordable by deciding how and when to apply cost sharing. There is an outstanding opportunity to offer technical support provider training and regional sharing of resources. Lastly, they can extend provider networks and improve access to BHI by minimizing and/or eliminating prior authorization or other utilization management practices for BHI services that can cause administrative burdens. 

Employers can also play a role in BHI by ensuring that their employees have access to comprehensive primary care services, including behavioral health. They can enhance coordination among themselves, their employees, primary care specialists, and behavioral health providers. Allowing employees access to proper care will significantly and positively impact the BHI. 

There are many parts to the BHI expansion and adoption throughout the country. From patients to providers, stakeholders, and payors, the list of the moving parts that will impact the adoption of BHI is endless. There is a clear need for BHI, and only by working together can we create a better system for behavioral healthcare in the future.

You can watch our full panel and hear more of these conversations here