A hand holding a lightbulb.

Panelists explored how their organizations propel change to accommodate person-centered needs and what the future holds for transformative mental healthcare.

Event recap: Senior leaders from Alliance Signature Series Sponsors, representing organizations across the healthcare industry, discussed the opportunities and challenges of developing an evidence-based and innovative mental healthcare system. Panelists explored how their organizations propel change to accommodate person-centered needs and what the future holds for transformative mental healthcare.

Mental health diagnoses are treated far differently than physical health concerns. Mental health is treated like an episodic condition rather than a chronic disease. At this point in time, mental health needs are skyrocketing, and our healthcare system is falling behind. The lack of parity between mental and physical healthcare calls for new innovations in the healthcare system. 

Unfortunately, there are many barriers to treating mental illnesses, as there is a growing shortage of specialized psychiatrists. It has become critical to prepare the primary care setting to be able to care for mental health patients. We know that 50% of mental health patients come to primary care settings. The first step to innovating the mental healthcare system is improving care accessibility. We can’t help people with mental health conditions if they aren’t able to access care, to begin with.

There is a significant lack of access to proper healthcare treatment and services, especially in underprivileged communities. The lack of equitable health care support significantly impacts how people perceive and obtain care. This contributes to mental health stigma. What we are doing is not working. Luckily, there are many opportunities for improvement. 

Change and innovation are desperately needed. Trying to provide mental health services at scale can be challenging. Many new players and solutions are emerging in the behavioral health industry, but innovating an entire branch of the healthcare system involves a lot of trial and error. The history of psychology is deeply rooted in work that has gone on for over a hundred years. Much of the thinking is conservative. As the field grows, the thinking becomes locked in the thinking. Because of this, new solutions need to consider how to bring policy innovation that will support the clinical innovation that is taking place. Innovation is also rapidly changing with the help of digital tools. The challenge with that is ‘how are we going to integrate those advancements effectively going forward that can really maximize the capacity for people to take advantage of it in the best way and weave it together in a way that keeps people falling between the cracks?’ There is an enormous need for advancement, but without innovation, we will have a hard time getting there. 

Innovation and technology are one way to fix some of the problems created over decades. Technology is a great way to help us find new modalities of care and help keep track of patient retention, engagement, and progression of care more efficiently. The only way we will improve the mental healthcare system is if we figure out how the field can move into the future as we have in every other field. 

Equity in the space of behavioral health is an essential factor of innovation. We know that expanding the funding opportunities would help enhance equity in mental health providers’ training and credentialing. Another aspect of this equity issue is incorporating mental health access in schools. Providing more mental health services in schools can help pave the way for proper care for those who have not had access in the past. Offering the right kind of access for the people who need it can change how behavioral health helps heal everyone. 

Innovation is how we progress into the future. There are many disparities in the mental health field, but there are many positive ways to make the right change to impact the most people. Innovation is not always about creating new things. It can also be taking an existing system and making it more effective by using data to our advantage and what we have available in the field of medicine. Innovation is the future; the future is better care for mental health. 

You can watch our full panel here.