In 2021 we will see a larger focus on ensuring quality mental health care reaches all populations in need, with greater access and cost-effectiveness. While technology is driving so much positive change in healthcare and in mental health, the human connection must be remembered.

The Rise of (CBT) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 2.0

Digital CBT is being adopted rapidly as healthcare providers, workplaces, and communities adapt to the changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital therapy often deploys strategies rooted in CBT, hence the trend in digitizing CBT’s best practices.   

CBT has become increasingly popular among and clinicians and the general public due to its quick, short-term, structured approach to treatment and its impressive track record in treating stress, anxiety, and depression (today’s top contributors to global health issues—according to the World Health Organization).

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

Healthcare provider speaking with patient over telehealth mental health session
Healthcare provider speaking with patient over telehealth mental health session

Experts predict President Joe Biden will usher in positive changes of his own since he’s long backed initiatives to benefit the healthcare industry.  

As a strong supporter of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, he helped ensure that parity was included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Plus, he pushed for substance abuse use disorder (SUD) treatment and mental health treatment to be defined as essential benefits under the ACA.

Under the Biden administration, parity enforcement will likely improve, attacks on the ACA will likely cease, and funding for behavioral initiatives will likely increase.

Even with additional funding, however, some behavioral providers will be forced to close their doors in 2021. Back in September 2020, nearly 40 percent of organizations reported that they were on the brink of financial collapse, with only enough money to survive the next 6 months or less.

Increase in Telehealth

The industry will likely see some of those financial failures play out in the year ahead, as mom and pop providers struggle to deal with decreased revenues due to social distancing requirements, increased costs associated with PPE and telehealth technologies, overworked staff, and other challenges. The global behavioral health market size is projected to surpass US $242 billion by 2027.  

While it will not replace in-person visits when needed, telehealth provides an easy first step to resolve an issue, especially for those in remote areas or those seeking care after business hours or on weekends.

For example, teledenistry has gained popularity to help address patient concerns and manage pain virtually by using video chat to receive a remote examination from their dentist, evaluate the need for immediate in-person intervention, or prescribe medication if necessary.  

As the utilization of virtual healthcare grows, it will be important for physicians to continue integrating more technology into their office practices to make it easier for individuals to access services through online scheduling, and to access their health records digitally.

Providers and carriers can use data, predictive analytics, and Artificial Intelligence to create a personalized experience for patients.   Through offering a patient-facing portal or app that they can access 24/7, patients will be educated about health risks and next steps in their treatment plan to understand their health and help their providers fill any care gaps.

Silver Linings of the Pandemic

Entrepreneur on telehealth call with behavioral healthcare provider
Entrepreneur on telehealth call with behavioral healthcare provider

Some behavioral health professionals had begun to integrate introduction videos into their patient-facing websites pre-pandemic, as a way of introducing themselves and their mental health specialities to prospective patients online. This was an important upgrade, as it allowed a viewer to get to know the therapist online and gauge whether they feel a connection to the providers’ mental health approach and personality.

The patient no longer needed to visit a brick and mortar office for the first consultation or introduction which had previously made new clients a bit ill-at-ease, especially those clients that are a bit shy or not as open to meeting new people on a regular basis. Most see the online introduction video integration into the providers’ websites continuing at a quick pace until it soon becomes the industry standard.

The mental burden of the pandemic has facilitated more honesty and empathy around mental health, which is key to dismantling the stigma that deters some individuals from seeking help.

Another positive is that more people have been either reaching out for help or serving others—whether it is donating to an important cause, grocery shopping for neighbors, or cheering on those that drove the public. Being kind has its own benefits for mental health.

What do you think about the 2021 trends in behavioral health? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.