EvolvedMD Co-CEO Erik Osland on Building Financially Sustainable Collaborative Care Programs

NeuroFlow CEO Chris Molaro interviews Erik Osland in the Bridging the Gap interview series

Welcome to Bridging the Gap, an interview series that brings together thought leaders in healthcare to discuss innovations impacting behavioral health. In this episode, NeuroFlow CEO Chris Molaro sat down with Erik Osland, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of evolvedMD, a service provider that embeds behavioral health specialists into primary care in order to build sustainable and impactful collaborative care programs. He and Chris discuss how to successfully launch financially sustainable collaborative care in a wide variety of healthcare settings.

Tune in below, and check out some of the top soundbites from this episode.

On why many primary care providers don’t offer integrated behavioral health care [7:39 – 9:22]:

Erik Osland: I get excited when my primary care practice just asks questions around mental health, even if they don’t provide it. And so I think the first step is we got to start talking about it. And we are as a system. The next thing we have to do is we have to have really engaged providers who ask their patients the questions and then from there, they need the resources to treat.

And unfortunately, the resources in the community are really difficult to come by. Whether you have insurance or you don’t, whether you have Medicare or Medicaid or commercial, we all have really struggled to get access to these resources in the community. And so I think part of the reticence around integration is like, well, if I start talking to my patients about this, what am I gonna do?

The answer to, “What do we do?” is we integrate. Depending on the practice, the size, the geography, there are unique challenges. No matter where you go, integration, unfortunately, is not as cut and dry or as easy as we’d like it to be. But we are starting, for the first time in my career in the mental health space, to see widespread adoption. That’s across the spectrum. That’s rural markets; that’s major population centers; that’s large health systems; that’s small clinics.

We’re starting to see progress. It needs to happen faster. In order to do that, I think groups like NeuroFlow and evolvedMD, we’ve got to come together and start to knock down some of these barriers, whether they’re systemic, whether they’re payer-related, or whether they’re state-related. I mean, today there’s only 24 states that cover collaborative care and integration for their Medicaid population. That needs to change rapidly.

On leading change management to establish financially sustainable collaborative care [12:50 – 16:47]

Chris Molaro: What has been the strategy to help with that change management to help make the model more efficient so that it can be adopted in a sustainable way?

Osland: Unfortunately, I think you brought up, integration done correctly is difficult. It requires a real meaningful investment in resources, funding, and time. And it’s no different than any other service line that a health system or practice would launch. I think the big differentiator is if this was orthopedics or cardiovascular, a health system would look at this and say, “I need to make an investment in leadership infrastructure .I need to build this out.” And they do that because the margins are good.

The fiscal impact is clear with behavioral health. My take is that this isn’t treated the same way in many of these systems. They say, “Well, we just go hire a therapist, plug them in, and off we go.  We’re integrated.” In reality, it’s a bad philosophy, it’s a bad strategy. And typically it ends up failing.

So what we tell practices is, “Look, we’re big advocates to do this. It’s important, but be committed to making a real meaningful investment and go out and build the infrastructure.” You need to support the program. Before you even think about patient care, start thinking about the experience for the employee and the clinician because you’re right, it’s a really competitive workforce. And if you don’t build the infrastructure and the model to support the employees first, you’re going to fail because attrition is gonna kill you in the end. And then once you are committed to those things, then start to build up a clinical model and deliver it.

And if you’re not committed to that up front end stuff, go out and buy because groups like ourselves and a number of other folks in the market, we’ve spent millions of dollars over the last couple of years building out the infrastructure to do these things, do them at scale, and provide an exceptional experience for our employees and provide an exceptional product for our customers and the patients they serve.

Check out more Bridging the Gap episodes here, or learn more about evolvedMD.

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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