The coronavirus has dominated the 2020 news cycle, and for good reason: The virus has shaped nearly everything about this year, including the behavioral health industry.
COVID-19’s impact on the space is further evidenced by 2020’s top stories on Behavioral Health Business. BHB’s most read story for the year was a story related to coronavirus coverage — as was its second and several others in the site’s top 10.
However, that’s not all that caught readers’ attention this year.
You can reflect back on some of BHB’s top stories from 2020 below.
Back in the early days of the coronavirus, testing was a challenge. Nationwide shortages made it hard for behavioral health providers — and people in general — to get access to COVID-19 testing. And when tests were available, they often took weeks to come back.
As such, when Recovery Centers of America (RCA) announced it was leveraging its relationship with its sister company Genetworx to test patients and community members, readers took notice.
Luckily for providers, testing is easier to come by these days, with most inpatient behavioral health providers testing patients upon admission to their facilities. Meanwhile, outpatient providers have largely transitioned to telehealth.
Since the coronavirus first hit the U.S., behavioral health providers have been working together to navigate the national emergency. The goal is to protect patients and maintain continuity of care, both of which are especially important given the adverse effect COVID-19 has had on the nation’s mental health.
Part of providers’ collaboration includes sharing strategies with one another and the industry at large. Some of the largest players in the behavioral health space did that for this March 16 story, which highlights several companies’ COVID-19 response plans.
Apart from the coronavirus, employee mental health benefits were also of interest to readers this year.
In recent years, startups like Ginger and Headspace have begun offering reinvented versions of these benefits. Many of their offerings are virtual and preventative, but the companies’ capabilities are growing.
Only time will tell what such startups — and employee mental health benefit opportunities overall — will mean for the behavioral health industry in the future.
Readers’ interest in the employee behavioral health benefits market was evident once again in this story from March 5.
Lyra Health — a mental health benefits provider — may be of particular interest to providers in the space, as its business model relies on partnerships with behavioral health organizations. It connects employees with providers who have open availability, improving their access to care, while also creating opportunities for behavioral providers.
As 2020 kicked off, so did Matt Peterson’s first full calendar year with Universal Health Services (NYSE: UHS). He’s head of the company’s behavioral health division and executive vice president.
In this Q&A from Feb. 14, Peterson outlined his 2020 goals, which included industry-wide collaboration and hopes of refining UHS’s behavioral operating model. Little did he know, the coronavirus would take the country by storm less than a month after this interview.
Since then, UHS has also announced a new CEO in Marc D. Miller, with whom BHB recently connected. Miller is the current president of UHS, and he will step into his new role in 2021, taking over for his father Alan.
Behavioral health providers had their eyes on the coronavirus even before President Donald Trump first declared it a national emergency on March 13.
In this story from March 10, industry stakeholders predicted that COVID-19 would lead to a spike in demand for behavioral services — a trend we’ve seen play out since then. In fact, 52% of behavioral health organizations say they have seen an increased demand for their services, according to September survey data from the National Council for Behavioral Health.
At the same time, financial challenges associated with the virus have made it hard for providers to keep up. According to the same National Council survey, more than 65% of providers say they’ve had to cancel, reschedule or turn away patients.
Finally, just as providers are interested in staying on top of current COVID-19 coverage, they’re eager to learn more about the future of the behavioral space.
In this piece, behavioral health executives shared their predictions for the year ahead, from the evolution of telehealth to the acceleration of industry consolidation.