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Venture Funding Increases for Behavioral Health Services and Technology

Demand for behavioral health services has skyrocketed in recent years, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, venture capital is pouring into mental health apps and other startups.

According to Forbes, about 42 percent of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December 2020. By that time, venture investors had provided a record $1.5 billion for mental health-related startups. This level of funding has persisted through 2021; startups received $795 million in the first quarter of the year.

Behavioral Health Funding Recipients

Despite federal laws requiring insurance parity for mental health, many clients struggle with a lack of coverage for behavioral health services. Burlingame, Calif.-based Lyra Health aims to provide real mental health benefits to large employers. The company recently raised $200 million at a $4.6 billion valuation, led by investment firm Coatue Management.

Besides a network of virtual or in-person providers, Lyra customers also have access to a virtual platform that supports mental health with cognitive behavioral therapy and other methods. The company’s network includes more than 90,000 providers in 180 countries.

Pediatric behavioral health startup Brightline, launched in California in 2020, recently raised $72 million in a Series B funding round. The company offers a behavioral health platform that offers virtual therapy, medication support, and other digital resources for children, teenagers, and caregivers. The company has expanded into Massachusetts and plans to reach nationwide expansion by the end of 2021.

Digital health company Ksana Health has raised $2 million in seed funding. The company also accepted an invitation to join the Anthem Digital Incubator to pilot a new digital health solution known as Vira. This solution aims to change the way behavioral health is monitored and studied by converting behavioral patterns collected by smartphones into real-world insights for providers.

The Spanish-language mental health app Yana recently announced that it has more than 5 million users and has raised $1.5 million in funding. The company had already raised $315,000 from previous investors, and about $10,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. CEO Andrea Campos originally created Yana as a personal project to help herself cope with depression. The app now offers access to mental health tools, including a chatbot, mood tracker, and meditation guidance.

Mental Health Technology Not a Cure-All

Will all this investment and new technology alone fix the nation’s behavioral healthcare system? Many experts have expressed doubts.

Without sufficient research into the effectiveness of mental health apps and other technology, consumers and providers may be unprepared to decide which options are the most suitable. Additional studies are needed to compare the different options currently on the market.

Virtual therapy sessions and mental-health apps may have an important role as a stopgap or supplementing a supplement to more traditional interventions. However, many researchers and clinicians believe they cannot replace in-person sessions.

“There’s a lot more to emotions and connecting with people, reading people and diagnosing people than just looking at their face,” says Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, as quoted in Forbes.

Whether you are providing in-person or virtual behavioral health services, the software you use can make a big difference to your clients’ experiences. BestNotes EHR solutions are tailored specifically to the needs and standards of behavioral health and addiction treatment professionals to help your practice succeed. Contact us today to learn more.

date:  Jul 20, 2021
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What is “Information Blocking,” and how does it affect behavioral health providers?

Understanding the proper use and disclosure of electronic health information (EHI) can get complicated. Federal laws, including HIPAA and the 21st Century Cures Act, add complicated layers and language.

One concept that can confuse both clinicians and patients in recent years is “information blocking.” Here are the basics that behavioral health providers should know.

Why information blocking matters

The term “information blocking” refers to anything that limits or prevents the sharing or access of EHI between clinicians and patients. It may be deliberate or unintentional.

Some examples of information blocking include:

An EHR system that places a hold on a behavioral health client’s records or progress notes while the clinician decides which EHI is appropriate to include
Providers that restrict EHI access beyond HIPAA and state law
Poor interoperability that prevents providers from sharing EHI with clients or other providers
An IT provider that charges excessive fees to create EHR connections with other health IT

Information blocking can prevent facilities or clinicians from sharing EHI with each other, which can hinder care coordination and lower the quality of care. It can also prevent clients from getting their own health information in a timely manner, preventing them from taking control over their own care.

Who must follow information blocking rules

The Cures Act includes provisions to reduce information blocking, promote interoperability, and improve client EHI access. The Cures Act’s Final Rule applies to anyone with access to EHI, though it aims at healthcare providers, health information networks or exchanges, and health IT developers.

Some of the healthcare providers under the rule include:

Community Mental Health Centers
Practitioners (including physician assistants and nurse practitioners)
Clinical social workers
Clinical psychologists

For the full list, check out this PDF. Any entity that does not comply with the Final Rule could see financial penalties.

Deadlines for information blocking compliance

The deadline to comply with the information blocking provisions was extended to April 5, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. EHR vendors are working hard to update their products to support the access, exchange, and use of all data elements.

Here’s where it gets more complicated. For 24 months after the Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on May 1, 2020, it only covers data that is defined within the USCDI v1.0 standard, a set of interoperability standards for nationwide health information exchanges. After those 24 months, the Final Rule covers any electronic protected health information as defined by HIPAA, regardless of whether the records involve a covered entity.

A few other deadlines include:

December 31, 2022: This is the deadline for the 2015 edition of health IT certification criteria updates and new standardized functionalities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, compliance dates and timeframes were revised to three months after each initial compliance date or timeline identified in the Final Rule.

If you aren’t sure about how the Cures Act applies to your behavioral health practice, contact your EHR vendor. They can discuss how this will affect your software and what changes, if any, are needed. You may also want to consult with a legal expert who specializes in healthcare.

When regulatory changes affect your behavioral health practice, your EHR system should take the headache out of compliance. The BestNotes EHR solution receives regular, automatic updates that comply with federal and state changes, so users are confident that their software follows the highest clinical and regulatory standards. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a free demo.

date:  Jul 09, 2021
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How Behavioral Health Programs Should Respond to Requests for Resident Information

Residential treatment options, from independent living programs to intensive wilderness therapy experiences, can help many young people who struggle with substance misuse. Many of these programs fall under the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. Participants can improve their problem-solving and communication skills and develop healthier living habits, often after traditional therapy models have not been successful.

However, the sensitive nature of these programs can also lead to safety issues for residents. Even the best providers must be prepared to respond to inquiries and investigations.

Reasons for Behavioral Health Safety Investigations

Behavioral health organizations may receive safety inquiries and undergo investigations for numerous reasons.

Licensing agencies may launch a routine investigation as part of a licensing application or renewal.
Payers may request information if they suspect fraud associated with billing.
Former clients or their families may accuse resident programs of mismanagement or abuse.
Data breaches may prompt investigations and audits.

Inquiries may come from licensing agencies, state protection and advocacy systems, payers, attorneys on behalf of client families, or independent organizations. Here’s how to respond.

Receiving a Medical Record Request

Any inquiry is likely to involve a request for client medical records. Before responding, make sure your facility is allowed to disclose records under HIPAA and state laws.

A few rules to follow:

In general, protected health information (PHI) cannot be used or disclosed without consent, except to the individual client.
Additional protections may apply to a mental health professional’s notes recorded during conversation in a counseling session.
If a state law is even stricter than HIPAA, then state law prevails.

Sometimes, you may disclose PHI without consent. These cases are limited and allowed only if there is a “serious and imminent” threat. Always refer to HIPAA and other federal and state laws that apply to your organization.

Responding to a subpoena

Behavioral health organizations under HIPAA law may only release PHI in response to a subpoena if certain conditions are met. The subpoena is accompanied by a court or administrative tribunal order and signed by a judge. The investigator must also provide you with “satisfactory assurance” that it has made “reasonable efforts” to give notice to the individual whose PHI is involved, or to secure an appropriate qualified protective order from the court or tribunal.

If you are subpoenaed, you must address it in some way, no matter what. This may involve contacting the requestor, appearing before a judge, or moving to quash the subpoena.

Declining a Medical Information Request

Your facility may not be able to fulfill all requests for medical information you receive. Be sure you understand the possible consequences if your organization does not disclose requested records.

If you must decline a PHI request in order to comply with federal or state law, do not acknowledge that the client involved was treated at your facility. However, if the request involves an individual who is not, and never has been, a client of your facility, you may say so.

Be sure to maintain and keep records for an appropriate length of time. If your state does not have specific laws for maintaining behavioral health records, consider following the American Psychological Association’s recommendations.

Whether you’re dealing with a routine audit or an unexpected investigation, maintaining appropriate documentation is crucial for behavioral health. The BestNotes EHR solution offers a documentation app that follows to federal, state, and accreditation standards, updating changes automatically, so you can maintain compliant records without anxiety. Contact us today to learn more, or schedule a free demo.

date:  Jun 15, 2021
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Developing a Value Proposition for Your Behavioral Health Business

What do you offer your behavioral health clients? How do you contribute to your community and your field? What makes you different from other providers in your area?

The answers to these questions determine your value proposition. This is an essential part of defining your behavioral health business and guiding many of your decisions.

What’s in a behavioral health value proposition?

Your value proposition should focus on what is unique to your behavioral health business. Some possibilities include:

Newness: You address a particular set of needs that customers were unaware of, or offer something different from what is already available.
Performance: Your organization is results-oriented and focuses on improving existing services.
Customization: You tailor your services to specific needs of individual clients or a client segment.
Design: You can make your service stand out due to design elements, such as a great website or a beautiful, relaxing office space.
Brand/Status: The client finds value in simply using or displaying a specific brand due to the organization’s reputation.
Price: Offer similar value at a lower price to serve a more price-sensitive client base.
Cost Reduction: Your organization helps the customer reduce monetary and other costs.
Risk Reduction: This angle emphasizes how you help clients reduce risk, such as reducing the symptoms of depression that can otherwise put relationships and careers in jeopardy.
Accessibility: Offer services to clients who otherwise may not have access to them, such as operating in an underserved neighborhood.
Convenience/Usability: Make your services easier to use or more convenient for clients, such as virtual therapy options.

How do you determine your value proposition?

Your value proposition won’t include all of those factors. So how do you decide which ones apply to your organization? Start with a little research.

Conduct a stakeholder analysis to determine the audience of your value proposition. Who is affected by your work, has influence over it, or has an interest in your success? This includes clients and payers, but also policymakers and potential partner organizations.
Internally review your organization’s capabilities to determine what you do well, what you are best known for, and what advantages you have over others.
Look at your organization’s strategy and consider what success looks like and how to achieve it. Don’t forget to consider potential risks and weak spots, too.
Gather data that is most valuable to your stakeholders, and what will demonstrate positive outcomes and costs. Consider how your data compares state- or nationwide. This may include health outcomes, how quickly clients are seen, and client engagement.

Once you have the right information, you can begin to create your value proposition. You may want to create both a short “elevator pitch” and a longer value proposition document that incorporates your answers and the data you’ve collected. Write in language targeted toward all relevant audiences.

With an established value proposition, you can articulate the unique value your behavioral health business brings to your market. You can also use it to inform decisions, such as marketing, hiring, and partnerships, that will also contribute to your organization’s success.

BestNotes aims to help behavioral health organizations streamline their operations to help make providers, staff, and clients happier. Our hosted CRM solution saves you from the cost and hassle of developing and supporting your own CRM, so you can increase profits while saving time. Contact us to learn more.

date:  Jun 07, 2021
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Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States: How Are We Doing?

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? This is an opportunity to look at the state of mental healthcare in the United States to identify trends and areas for improvement.

Despite Increased Demand, Behavioral Health Services Cut Back

Demand for behavioral health services has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, has found that some provider groups laid off staff or cut back on programs.

The GAO report referred to a 2020 survey by the National Council for Behavioral Health that found that 27 percent of 343 behavioral healthcare organizations cut back employees. Forty-five percent of the organizations cut some of their programs. The majority (65 percent) of organizations reported having to cancel, reschedule, or turn away patients in the summer of 2020, even as 52 percent reported an increase in demand.

Some providers have had to reduce inpatient beds to follow social distancing requirements. Others have had difficulty getting insurers to cover inpatient stays for patients with both physical and behavioral health diagnoses. While providers have tried to address these issues through telehealth visits or partnering with digital health resources that provide self-directed mental health resources to clients, it has not completely offset demand, especially for those who need in-person care.

Time to Rethink Physical and Behavioral Health Integration

Integrating primary care with behavioral health has been a goal and a challenge in healthcare for years. However, Ed Jones, PhD, senior vice president for the Institute for Health and Productivity Management, notes that the movement so far has not met the high expectations. In many cases, “integration” has been interchangeable with “coordination,” which doesn’t lead to much change. The same goes for collaboration and the patient-centered health home.

Instead, Jones suggests a model that leads to fundamental, transformational changes in primary or behavioral care. That model should target the failure of primary care to address health behaviors that affect chronic medical conditions associated with a majority of healthcare costs, along with the continued stigma of seeking help for mental health concerns. A new type of provider, which Jones calls the “primary care therapist,” can help address both the issue of behavior change and stigma. Therapists may work within primary care settings to help screen, counsel, and refer patients. The full article can be found at Behavioral Health Executive.

How Has Telehealth Affected Therapy During the Pandemic?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, infection control measures and the increased demand for mental health services has led many behavioral health providers to move to telehealth. Clinicians are attempting to address a backlog of appointments, while patients deal with long waitlists to see a provider. At Aspirus Wausau Hospital, the waiting period to see a psychiatrist is 8-12 weeks, and referrals have doubled over the last year. As more providers resume in-person services, there is hope that the backlogs will decline.

Increased demand and complex client needs have created challenges for behavioral health providers. Make your practice more efficient and improve client outcomes with BestNotes’ EHR solutions, customized to your unique needs. Contact BestNotes today to learn more and schedule a free demo.

date:  May 25, 2021
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