Addressing the Rising Risk of Complex Behavioral Health Care on Our Healthcare System

Intelligent collaboration and coordination between behavioral and physical health creates efficiency, additional care opportunities, and improves long term outcomes for complex populations.

Today’s fragmented approach to behavioral health prevents health systems from tracking patients with behavioral health needs throughout their healthcare journey. Without a continuity of care, patients can enter a vicious cycle of emergency department utilization, inpatient admissions, behavioral health referrals, missed referrals, and worsening symptoms that lead to readmissions.

Creating a behavioral health care continuum is critical to appropriately identifying and triaging patients so that they receive the right care at the right time and in the appropriate setting. This proactive approach helps patients before their health deteriorates further and prevents high utilization of health systems’ finite resources with low-value care and billable events.

Unidentified Behavioral Health Needs Exacerbate Health Systems’ Fragmentation Problem

To illustrate healthcare’s fragmentation issue, let’s consider the patient John and his experience interacting with a health system. John has undiagnosed anxiety. One day, John experiences heart palpitations and chest pains and fears he is suffering a heart attack. He goes to the emergency department and tells the doctors his symptoms.

The doctors in the emergency department aren’t aware that John has a past psychiatric history. There is also a high influx of patients in the emergency department and limited resources to meet all of their needs in a timely way. While John’s medical work up in the ED did not reveal any abnormalities, he was admitted to a medical inpatient unit for monitoring and additional tests.

After ruling out underlying medical causes that could contribute to John’s heart palpitations and chest pains, the doctors prepare John for discharge. They inform him that his symptoms are most likely related to anxiety, and refer him to an in-network clinic that doesn’t have availability for weeks. The out-of-network alternative, while it does have availability, is too expensive. John can’t afford to make his appointment. As a result, he doesn’t follow through on his referral and doesn’t get the help he needs. Because John’s behavioral health is not being monitored or addressed, this cycle of emergency department utilization and readmission will continue.Emergency Department Behavioral Health Crisis

Patients like John result in overcrowded ED, long wait times, lower staff morale, and low-value ED utilization. Health systems are leaving money on the table and high-value patients are looking elsewhere to find convenience and speed. There is an opportunity, through identification, to more effectively and efficiently serve patients like John and free up health systems ability to serve other high-value patients.

The Solution: End-to-End Behavioral Health

John could have had a completely different experience if his health system had an end-to-end behavioral health solution. An end-to-end solution, like NeuroFlow, offers health systems four key capabilities to better identify and triage patients at every stage of their health journey:

  • Self-care resources to support patients’ behavioral health in between appointments, tailored to their unique needs
  • Regular, proactive screening to identify sudden changes in behavioral health
  • A data feedback loop that keeps care teams informed on patient progress and alerts them if patients need to be triaged to a higher level of care
  • Suicide prevention protocols that prompt timely outreach from suicide prevention professionals when patients express suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm

Imagine if the first time John presented in the emergency department he was introduced to NeuroFlow prior to discharge. NeuroFlow connects John with digital, self-care behavioral health resources, empowering him to manage his anxiety. NeuroFlow also screens John using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 scale to assess the severity of his anxiety symptoms. A psychiatric consult can review these results while John is still at the emergency department and develop a more thoughtful care plan and targeted referral upon discharge.

Because John started engaging with NeuroFlow while at the hospital and continues to after discharge, his care team can follow his progress. The health system’s navigators can monitor alerts from the NeuroFlow app, track his subsequent screenings, and follow up with John to ensure he reaches the next level of care. Should John’s behavioral health decline significantly, NeuroFlow offers suicide prevention services, staffed by trained professionals. They can contact John if he is in crisis, deescalate, and refer him to the right care or services.

With the appropriate behavioral health support from NeuroFlow and a behavioral health specialist, John can learn to manage his anxiety and eliminate the need for future admissions.

End-to-End Behavioral Health Solution

A Digital Companion for the Patient’s Health Journey

John and other patients like him present with acute behavioral health issues in many settings outside of the emergency department, such as primary care, oncology, or gynecology. NeuroFlow functions as a digital behavioral health companion at every stage of a patient’s health journey. We guide patients toward the appropriate level of care wherever they are in the system and when they need it most. This approach can save health systems millions of dollars every year.

Learn more about how NeuroFlow can help your healthcare organization avoid low-value utilization and reduce readmissions while improving patient outcomes. Check out the complete infographic here, or schedule a demo of our solutions today!

Ellen Harvey is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at NeuroFlow. She has over nine years of experience writing about technology and innovation for business leaders. At NeuroFlow, she writes about prominent trends in behavioral health and illustrates how NeuroFlow's technology helps healthcare, payor, and government organizations improve the well-being of their constituents.

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