Tech can help address the behavioral health crisis, says AMA

The American Medical Association, in conjunction with Manatt Health, released a report this week exploring ways that virtual care and other digital tools can accelerate the adoption of integrated physical and behavioral health care delivery.

On The reportorganizations point to behavioral health integration as essential to addressing the nation’s compelling need for access to services.

“Demand for behavioral health services is significant and growing, but so is the potential for digital technology to support integrated delivery of physical and behavioral health services,” said AMA President Gerald Harmon, MD, it’s a statement.


The organizations convened a diverse working group to develop the report, which proposed a set of solutions that stakeholders can follow to implement a sustainable behavioral health integration model.

“Although not a panacea, incorporating technology into BHI models of care (i.e., digitally enabled BHI), such as telehealth and other digital tools, could improve efficiency and accelerate BHI adoption,” reads The report.

From digital intake and screening tools to referral technology and remote patient monitoring software, the report pointed to several solutions that can support and add value to BHI throughout the patient journey.

It included specific steps to be taken by stakeholder groups:

  • Medical practices and health systems can incorporate evidence-based digital health solutions and enable the technology into standard workflows, thereby increasing rates of behavioral health diagnosis and treatment
  • health plans can expand coverage and fair payment with a margin for all stakeholders using the collaborative care model and other BHI models
  • federal policy makers could increase federal funding for efforts, such as loan forgiveness and new residency and training programs, in an effort to grow the workforce
  • employers You can reduce out-of-pocket costs for employees seeking care by evaluating how and when to apply cost sharing
  • Private or publicly traded behavioral health companies can work with stakeholders to develop national standards for BHI technologies, thereby generating strong clinical and economic evidence for digitally enabled BHI
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“All stakeholders have a critical role to play in making accessible and equitable treatment that addresses people’s physical and behavioral health needs more standard practice within primary care,” the report reads.

Of course, there are limitations to the use of technology within BHI, including the need for a longitudinal relationship between patient and provider; lack of strong clinical or economic evidence; unequal community access to connectivity or broadband; and clinical inappropriateness for some patients.

“The evolution towards digitally enabled BHI models that incorporate the use of technology has the potential to accelerate the adoption and impact of BHI, however, technology is only part of the solution needed to significantly drive sustainable BHI adoption,” reads in the report.


Behavioral health has consistently emerged as a specialty that has especially benefited from the advent of telemedicine – and the increase in patient need – in the midst of COVID-19.

Last September, Dr. James R. Varrell, founder and medical director of Array Behavioral Care, said Healthcare IT News what telepsychiatry can help fill the gap between demand and supply of behavioral health patients.

“Establishing a relationship with telepsychiatry clinicians can empower providers throughout the care process with the support and information they need to fully manage the health of their patient population,” he said.


“The AMA is committed to accessible and equitable treatment for physical and behavioral health needs, and the appropriate use of digital health technology can further the integration of behavioral health, particularly in [times] of increased psychological distress and trauma,” Harmon said.

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Kat Jercich is a senior editor for Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is published by HIMSS Media.

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