6 Mental Health & Teletherapy Predictions & Trends to Watch in 2021

The executive team at AbleTo, a technology-enabled provider of behavioral healthcare shares six mental health and teletherapy predictions and trends to watch in 2021.

Trip Hofer, CEO at AbleTo

1. Measurement and Outcomes

“The healthcare industry has made progress toward increasing access to mental health care and defining what quality care looks like. Now in 2021, the industry needs to focus on how we measure that quality. With mental health becoming an incredibly hot market and so much funding pouring in for new entrants, many leaders are concerned with the lack of rigorous, evidence-based standards for measuring patient outcomes. I share that concern, and want to stress the importance of sound methodologies for demonstrating outcomes.”

2. Market Trends

“The consolidation we saw in mental health during 2020 will continue into next year but I think we’ll see new trends appear too. There’s such a proliferation of investment dollars in the market that we can expect to see some organizations come and go if they don’t produce the expected returns. With so much money flowing into the mental health space, organizations that don’t show evidence-based rigor and good quality clinical care will fade, while those providing sound mental health care will succeed.”

“Provider networks will increase in importance given the shortage of trained behavioral health clinicians. Demand is increasing among patients who need more than an app to address their needs—they need the human connection. With a limited pool of providers, companies will have to compete to attract providers to their network. At AbleTo, we do this by setting ourselves apart on the basis of quality standards of care. That’s very appealing to highly skilled therapists seeking to join a network.”

“In 2021, the industry will need to address the regulatory environment around licensing behavioral health practitioners, as well as the use of remote care. When CMS relaxed cross-state regulations during the pandemic, this made navigating the regulatory framework even more complicated, since the varying licensing rules remain at the state level. We need permanent improvements to regulations so licensed therapists can more easily practice across state lines and meet the growing needs of remote patient populations.”

6 Mental Health & Teletherapy Predictions & Trends to Watch in 2021

Reena Pande, Chief Medical Officer at AbleTo

3. Solution Complexity

“We’ve seen such a promising shift towards focusing on behavioral healthcare. But the wealth of point solutions now available to address behavioral health needs has created an exceptionally confusing environment for payers and employers with some even telling us they have “point solution fatigue.” The fact is that there is no one right point solution. Mental health is not one condition requiring one solution; it encompasses a heterogeneous group of complex conditions that require different interventions. What the industry needs to focus on in 2021 is putting together a solution set that can address the complexity and nuances of mental health. The market needs to be more mindful of this over the course of the next year and avoid trying to oversimplify mental health.”

4. Access and Utilization

“Our payer partners saw a surge in utilization of telehealth broadly at the outset of the pandemic; but while utilization for physical health has lessened, telehealth use for mental health has continued. Given the acceptance of technology as an effective way to deliver mental health care, we expect it to continue into 2021.

This predicted increase in utilization will of course differ by socioeconomic status. Telehealth, like COVID, has laid bare underlying inequities that have long existed in the healthcare system. In 2021, we will see a larger focus on ensuring quality mental health care reaches all populations in need, with greater emphasis on access and cost-effectiveness.”

Naomi Pollock, Senior Director, Clinical
Program Development at AbleTo

5. Relationships

“While technology is driving so much positive change in healthcare and in mental health, we need to remember the value of the human connection. Clinical interventions depend on real people delivering care, and the voices of both patients and providers need to guide our approach to care delivery, including through technology like telehealth or virtual therapy. The relationships that providers and patients create with one another are the key driver of care, and technology should complement that human connection, not replace it.”

6. Clinician Challenges

“We [The industry] need to help our therapists measure the impact of the care they deliver to ensure they’re offering the right interventions to the right participants. This means educating providers around how to measure care outcomes, how to define measurement-based care, and what it looks like both on an individual level and a population level. At AbleTo, we’ve solved that missing piece to support the providers in our network. We need to focus on making this standard across the industry.”

“Our clinicians are facing unprecedented challenges during this pandemic. For months, they’ve been supporting patients struggling with the impacts of COVID while they are living through it themselves—working from home, seeing patients virtually, juggling their own personal and family lives. We need to support our care deliverers amidst this wave of mental health challenges they’re facing, similar to how we support frontline workers and medical practitioners.”

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