Digital health continues to be a hot commodity, as funding for the category exceeded the $20 billion mark in 2021.
Telehealth use across the health spectrum has reached stratospheric levels, all of which leaves the telebehavioral health world in a unique position to take advantage of the demand. And what seemed only a few years ago as a novel way to dispense care, telehealth has become not only a lifeline for virtual providers but traditional brick-and-mortars as well.
Over a third of behavioral health visits in 2020 were done through telehealth. Currently, telehealth for behavioral health services have been estimated to make up the majority of claims nationwide across all health care lines. And various other studies and surveys show that many still want to continue using telebehavioral health post-COVID.
The telebehavioral health market might be proving to have staying power, as it is being solidified by mergers led by companies like Headspace and Amwell, in addition to having pure-play behavioral providers like Talkspace go public. As it does, executives say that a number of factors will shape the scope of it – ranging from expansion of telebehavioral health access, who can be covered for it and how it can exist alongside primary care services.
Behavioral Health Business asked some of the leading digital behavioral health executives about their predictions for the industry in 2022. Here’s what they had to say:
In 2022, we are going to see a proliferation of the B2C2B go-to-market strategy in healthcare. Companies that can capture users and drive engagement through compelling consumer experiences will become increasingly desirable for payers willing to subsidize the care.
We will also see an increased consolidation in mental health, with record numbers of acquisitions in this space as large digital health companies, both public and private, recognize the need to add mental health to their offerings to deliver comprehensive care.
Finally, I predict there will be updates to the ACA surrounding mental health. The Affordable Care Act made crucial and historic reforms to ensure access to preventive care and mental health care. Now, it’s time to update the ACA to include anxiety screening as a Covered Preventive Service for all children and adults (or, at the least, all adolescents and adults), versus strictly adolescent and adult women, as is covered today, as well as including behavioral health coaching in the list of Covered Preventive Services.
– Russell Glass, CEO of Headspace Health
2021 was one of the most challenging years for the behavioral health industry. In many ways, we are reverting back to the same challenges that we were facing this time last year, and there is no sign of the pandemic being resolved anytime soon.
Fortunately, in 2022, we’ll have the tools and processes to guide us through this new phase of the pandemic. We’ve seen that telehealth is a modality that is here to stay, and will be incorporated into the behavioral healthcare delivery system for the foreseeable future. We now have years of data and research to support the efficacy of virtual treatment, including the impact of asynchronous chat as a “lifeline” for those suffering from anxiety and depression.
Moving forward, as we see more and more people seeking treatment virtually, we must establish benchmarks that will guide the industry, and ultimately, support clinicians to improve engagement and treatment outcomes with their patients.
– Varun Choudhary, Chief Medical Officer of Talkspace
Steered by empowered employees driving ‘the great resignation,’ leaders looking to compete for talent in 2022 will seek to provide employees with better mental health resources and support. We recently commissioned a study with Forrester Consulting and found 64% of manager and non-manager employees rank a flexible and supportive culture over a higher salary and are prepared to change jobs to find it.
To recruit and retain employees in this highly competitive job market, employers will start making unprecedented investments to support their workers’ mental health and wellness. And when they do, they’ll not only discover happier and more loyal employees but better business results. Our study found employees, managers, and leaders agree that providing mental health benefits can lead to improved productivity, indicating there’s tangible ROI when leaders do the right thing by their employees.
– Alyson Watson, CEO of Modern Health
In 2022 we will see sustained demand for high-quality behavioral care services (particularly for children and adolescents), AND 2022 will bring a normalization of the behavioral health market back toward evidence based medicine and live clinical services from qualified professionals.
Many of the novel behavioral care apps, technology tools, and coaching programs that have caught headlines in the last year will lose some luster. Now that this pandemic has significantly advanced mental health against its superficial stigma, people will naturally start to probe into the nuances of mental health conditions and services.
Individuals will increasingly recognize the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, a therapist and a counselor, and a coach and a peer. They will continue to expect convenient, engaging, and digitally enhanced behavioral care services, and they will expect to know that they are accessing the best care possible for their unique needs. Simultaneously, the payor and provider communities will increasingly demand increased integration between physical and behavioral medicine, and they will require longitudinal outcomes that demonstrate the quality and efficacy of behavioral services.
COVID has opened the world’s eyes to the importance of mental health, and 2022 is the moment for quality clinicians to demonstrate the tremendous impact quality behavioral care offers.
– Geoffrey Boyce, CEO of Array Behavioral Care
Innovation in Medicaid: This includes tackling the misconception that telehealth should be leveraged less for Medicaid beneficiaries because of the perceived gap in smartphone ownership – when in reality, adult Medicaid beneficiaries own smartphones and tablets at the same rates as the general adult U.S. population.
Broadband Access for Rural Communities: 20% of Brave Health’s patients reside in rural areas, so we know firsthand how difficult it can be to solve access and connectivity challenges in these regions. However, in 2022, I expect to see more companies working together to identify creative ways to extend access to rural populations over the next 12 months.
Honing in on Conditions that Impact Communities: In 2022, we will see more focus on behavioral health specialty areas that impact families and communities, including: maternal mental health, teen and adolescent mental health, and those with serious mental illnesses – with support ranging from self-guided behavioral health tools to end-to-end platforms and provider services like Brave Health.