The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weak spots in the fee-for-service model, highlighting the concerns that healthcare researchers and policy experts have been pointing out for years. Providers that depend on volume for revenue found themselves in a sticky situation as elective procedures and appointments dramatically dropped off this past year. Conversely, those with value-based care arrangements continued to receive payments each month regardless of patient volume. The focus on patient outcomes versus services rendered allowed these providers to quickly pivot towards telehealth and other creative care models. A value-based care (VBC) approach can empower providers with greater flexibility in how they deliver care to create better financial and clinical outcomes.
The pandemic also shined a light on another critical trend directly related to value-based care – the escalating behavioral health crisis. Integrated care isn’t a new concept for providers operating under value-based care arrangements, but pre-pandemic, many were unaware of three significant statistics:
- Roughly 90% of the nation’s $3.5T annual healthcare budget is for those with comorbid chronic physical and mental conditions.
- Integrated behavioral health models reduce the overall cost of care, ranging from 5%-10% of total healthcare costs.
- $3,300 in cost savings per patient over two years for depression treatment in primary care
These numbers illustrate just how deeply and directly behavioral health conditions impact physical health costs and outcomes. The pandemic has only escalated behavioral health concerns and their physical counterparts – meaning VBC success today demands an extra critical focus on behavioral health integration (BHI).
How BHI enhances your VBC efforts
By connecting all care team members and proactively surfacing key patient insights, BHI technologies play an integral role in achieving VBC quality metrics and cost savings, especially in our mid- and post-pandemic worlds. Put simply, it’s putting technology to work to make behavioral health an integrated part of the interdisciplinary treatment team—starting in primary care settings. Here’s a look at how BHI technologies deliver results that create successful, sustainable approaches to care moving forward:
Decreased Costs of Care
Embedding behavioral health into physical medicine—especially when it comes to expensive chronic conditions—can drive down costs by presenting a full picture of patients’ biopsychosocial conditions and needs. In fact, a Milliman study shows up to 17% reduction in annual total costs in chronic condition populations for organizations effectively implementing BHI.
Measurement and risk stratification tools enable providers to not only capture insights on patients’ behavioral health, but also stratify patients to identify those most at risk. The ability to intervene to help individuals with rising levels of risk before they present to the ED or other high-cost setting results in significantly improved financial outcomes. Health systems using a BHI tool with risk stratification capabilities like NeuroFlow have seen a 34% reduction in ED visits – a stat with tangible benefits in a VBC arrangement.
Improved Patient Outcomes
Beyond the clear positive outcomes associated with keeping rising-risk individuals out of emergency situations, using BHI technology to gather critical data in between in-person visits increases provider opportunity to help patients quickly.
For example, BHI tools like NeuroFlow facilitate remote assessments like the PHQ-9, which a patient can complete whenever it’s convenient—not just when they’re in their provider’s office. The virtual format increases the likelihood of engagement and volume of screenings completed, while also likely increasing the authenticity of the results as patients feel more comfortable giving honest answers in their own environment.
Higher volumes of accurate behavioral health insights lead to more opportunity for intervention, and the ability to get patients to the right level of care more quickly.
Enhanced Clinical Efficiencies
Helping all providers work top-of-license creates efficiency and leads to a more satisfying clinician experience. With BHI technologies, primary care providers aren’t asked to practice complex behavioral health care – just to assess their patients’ need for it.
BHI solutions can give providers confidence to treat low-acuity behavioral health conditions that they may not be accustomed to treating, simply because they know that a team of specialists stands ready to support them. Behavioral health specialists can then devote their time to those patients who really need their expertise. All along the way, BHI technologies let providers follow evidence-based protocols and efficiently track results.
Top Down VBC needs the right BHI solutions
Every healthcare organization must find its own unique path to VBC, and successfully moving to VBC will almost always entail a phased approach. To start, providers must recognize how a comprehensive BHI program can improve risk management, directly impact clinical outcomes, and accelerate the journey toward value-based care. No matter where an organization starts on the path towards value-based care, complementary BHI solutions can be layered and adjusted to meet shared goals of the patient and clinicians.