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A Formulary Of Mental Health & Wellness Apps: Kaiser Permanente, Teladoc Health

posted by AHIP

on September 2, 2021

We close out Season 5 of The Next Big Thing in Health podcast with Scott Heisler, Principal Consultant and Innovation Specialist at Kaiser Permanente and Dan Trencher, SVP of Corporate Strategy at Teladoc Health. They joined hosts Laura Evans and AHIP President & CEO Matt Eyles to explore the digital tools that are available to help patients address their mental health and wellness needs.

Listen to the episode on Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Stitcher. 

Matt Eyles: About 1 in 5 adults experience mental health issues, but only 45% get treatment. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many people will face new or worse mental health problems. How can we encourage people to seek help when needed?

Scott Heisler: When we did our research, we found that people want to take ownership of their own care—not only their general health, but their mental health. What they lack are options. What we wanted to do was present more options to them in an easy way to work on their mental health.

We found that by creating a formulary of mindfulness and meditation apps along with cognitive behavioral apps that were conveniently offered by our mental health providers, then our members were led to be more likely to download and actually use these products. And so even though it is a difficult time, we felt that if we have this formulary and an easy way for our clinicians to refer, then they’ll have better access to the help they want to get.

Laura Evans: What role does technology play? How is telehealth evolving and changing how people seek out and access mental health and wellness services?

Dan Trencher: We do see a huge role that technology can play in improving access to mental health care for our consumers. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, technology has opened a new frontier in mental health support and data collection. I’ve been with Teladoc Health for 10 years, and we’ve long said that virtual care democratizes access to care by removing barriers to care—whether those be cost, geography, or fear of exposure to COVID while accessing mental health services. According to Google, they’ve seen anywhere from a 300-400% increase in searches for virtual care around the globe—it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon.

As we look at mental health in particular, there’s always been the additional challenge around stigma. Thankfully, some of those barriers around stigma are starting to come down, but still, that’s always been something that’s kept people who could benefit from mental health care from accessing it. It’s an area that technology can really help. While this is all happening, we’re seeing a growing crisis in increased need for mental health care. We all know because of social isolation and challenges to how we’ve been living our lives it’s only become more of a need for mental health services—making virtual care access through technology more important.

Matt Eyles: What apps and virtual services exist to support members struggling with illness, stress, and isolation? How did these tools help during the pandemic?

Scott Heisler: We currently have six digital health care offerings that are available to our members. Three of those products are mindfulness meditation apps, and three of those are cognitive behavioral apps. The mindfulness meditation apps are very important to help guide a person in understanding the mind-body experience. And then the cognitive behavioral apps help with using a certain technique—cognitive behavioral therapy—to understand how there’s a mind-body connection. All of those apps are available through our clinical pathway at Kaiser Permanente or through our self-care pathway.

The nice thing about this is that members want to take care of themselves too. They want to have a role in their care. Being able to have these apps in a digital format allows them to be able to be used in-between sessions. We found that during the pandemic, when people are more isolated, then they gravitated to wanting to use these tools.

Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.