May 28, 2021

Improving Access to Care For Mental Health Patients with Greg Gossett

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About the Episode:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month—it’s a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. Our guest Greg Gossett, CEO of Healthaware, provides his insights on the growing need for mental health services and what health systems can do to provide better access to care for mental health patients.

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About the Podcast:

The Engaging Healthcare Podcast by Stericycle Communication Solutions features conversations focused on the challenges, trends, innovations, and hot topics of the healthcare industry. Hear industry experts share their approaches to transforming healthcare and give fresh perspectives on the future of value-based care.

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Mark Angus: “Welcome to the Engaging Healthcare Podcast presented by Stericycle Communication Solutions, I'm your host, Mark Angus. We're providing you with insightful commentary on the healthcare industry's challenges, trends and hot topics. To learn more about how we help modernize patient engagement and maximize patient outcomes, head over to StericycleCommunications.Com. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It's a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. Today's guest, Greg Gossett, CEO of HealthAware, is here to provide his insights on the growing need for mental health services and what health systems can do to provide better access to care for mental health patients. Greg, welcome, and thank you for joining us on this podcast.”

Greg Gossett: “Thank you for having me.”

Mark Angus: “So, Greg, according to Stericycle recent consumer trends and patient engagement survey, the number of consumers seeking mental health services grew by 10% during the pandemic. With this, how have you and your company witness the growing need for mental health services? And do you believe that the number of people seeking mental health services will continue to grow in the coming years?”

Greg Gossett: “Yes, absolutely. We've seen a pretty sharp increase in demand for mental services. And here's what our research shows. So HealthAware is the health risk assessment company. We provide a variety of early disease detection technology to healthcare systems, of those addiction, stress, depression and anxiety are in that category. So we have health risk assessments HRAs in all of those categories, and we absolutely are seeing an increase in activity. And what we're learning, too, is people moved from a normal, quote unquote, normal society to an isolation oriented society. And that created a lot of mental health, stress, anxiety, et cetera, and health issues across the population. Now we're moving from isolation to a hybrid, and there's stress and confusion in that alone, too. So we're still seeing a number of HRAs of stress and depression related injuries with high activity. And so the volumes are up. And what's even more interesting is there's the volumes of those that are accepting the call to action is up to which I'm going to talk about in a second. But we do expect that the interest in HRAs, the mental health oriented HRAs will continue to rise because the new norm, quote unquote, isn't here yet. We are still transitioning as a society and that's going to impact people's health and mental health as well.”

Mark Angus: “Very true. Access to care is a critical issue for many health patients. What do health systems need to do differently to provide better access and engage mental health patients? Yeah, that's a great question. So one thing I think we need to focus on now, we're talking about the health risk assessment perspective today, because that's what we do. And so I'm sharing our insights around the health risk assessments and how healthcare systems are providing access and converting consumers and appropriately necessarily at the right time to the right place. So first of all, when I just mentioned that in health risk assessments, that those consumers that accept the call to action to engage with the healthcare system around behavioral health, is increased. Now, we need to remember, first of all, HRAs behavioral health HRAs have one of the lowest conversion rates of all HRAs., and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just a thing. And what I mean by that is those that accept the call to action after a health risk assessment, the call to action could be, can we talk to you? And we set an appointment for you. Can we do a free screening with you, a virtual health coaching session, whatever it might be. The folks that are struggling with mental health or behavioral health issues are they really are afraid to come out with their stigma, their perceived stigma of behavioral health issues. They like the autonomy. And so when we as healthcare systems think about reaching out, creating access and converting those consumers, that's very different than converting a heart risk or a joint risk consumer. They're struggling with pain or issue or fear, but the behavioral consumer is struggling with a whole different set of issues. So number one, when you create a call to action or point of fact, this is for a behavioral issue, you need to ensure the consumer understands their autonomy and the whole process that they are their data secure their information, their identity is secure. This is confidential. This is private. We know there's a lot of stigma around this perceived stigma. A second one is compassion is just scheduling an appointment might be what you want, but what they want is just someone to talk to right now. So an appointment might be kind of a scary next step. So I really believe that creating that point of access that is wrapped with autonomy, compassion, respect, privacy is really critical because I'm seeing a lot of healthcare systems that have behavioral health intake mechanisms and points of access, but they look strangely similar to orthopedics and cardiovascular and other service lines. And that means they're just applying a formula from other parts of the hospital or healthcare system into the ground. And I don't think that's right. And so the and we know it's not right because we see when the call to action, a health risk assessment is really wrapped in autonomy and compassion, the conversions can go up significantly. And it no longer becomes part of the lowest conversion health risk assessment in the bunch. The other area too for healthcare system to provide more access is combining behavioral health conversion and points of access with your traditional service lines. And I mean, come on, let's we got to realize what's happening here. I mean, the comorbidities with depression are really high with things like heart disease, heart failure, heart failure, emphysema or COPD, back pain, joint pain. So what we're seeing is to show this is really happening in the US, the healthcare systems are asking to combine mental health or behavioral health information and content and the right tries with the traditional service lines. The ones that really are most common right now would be heart and cardiovascular, back pain and joint pain. And then lung, the smokers. So those four categories, if you ask the HRA participant questions about their behavioral health, you're going to get a high concentration of people that have both risk for that service under that disorder as well as the behavioral health issue. So that's number one is, so the healthcare systems need to stop thinking in silos about behavioral health. That needs to be part of the overall treatment plan. I know we all know this, but an HRA gives you the ability to actually provide that point of access that is combined. And so to create if somebody has heart risk and depression risk, then create a unique call to action for those people versus those with just heart risk or just depression risk. Right so creating that very individualized call to action is going to increase access to people, because not everybody with a behavioral health issue is seeking healthcare for behavioral health. They often are seeking healthcare for physiological reasons. So that's important. And those are important aspects to create better access to engage mental health patients.”

Mark Angus: “Those are such good points. And all around care as well. So it leads me to my next question, which is what solutions, technology or strategies can health systems implement to start incorporating mental health into primary care?”

Greg Gossett: “That's a great question. And I think that's one of the challenges we see often is and admittedly, the healthcare community, if we're to paraphrase it, they're not sure what to do with the traditional patients or the patients coming in for more traditional disease or disorder, what to do with them when they have a behavioral health issue? The common reaction is throw them over the fence to the behavioral health unit or just throw some depression drugs at them, what have you. But really, there's some real combinations of the two. So I think as far as treatment, I can't speak to that. I'm not a medical decision maker. But what I can say in terms of creating more access, bringing in more patients, reacting to them. Number one, I think following up with them, it's easy, I think, to collect leads on those that have behavioral health issues, whether it's stress, anxiety, addiction or depression. But how you, they're not going to convert to probably one of the slower patients to convert in that category. And so what we can do is create follow up mechanisms. I think in marketers, we typically refer to this as nurturing. But nurturing the behavioral health patient is very different than nurturing the back pain patient because the back pain patient we're talking about medication management or physiological changes like stretching and exercise to help alleviate the physiological issues. Whereas on the mental health side, we're talking about gratitude journals and acts of kindness and things that are softer in nature, and really not necessarily as clear cut as some of the medical decision making processes and physiological issues. So it's important for our healthcare system to have the nurturing processes, content, nurturing content to provide to those patients. And all that nurturing content must have points of access embedded in it. So that when they get a link about, say, acts of kindness overcomes some of the help, manage some of their day to day stress, then if they're having trouble with social integration, then here's a link. Here's someone to talk to, always combining that downstream. Secondly, I mean, one of the evidence for this, we understand the nurturing side. So we provide a chatbot, a virtual coach chatbot for behavioral health and the most popular category, and we provide topics across the board from nutrition to fitness, et cetera and one of the most popular categories is gratitude. It is keeping a gratitude journal and being grateful for your just day, your activities, what's happening around you, recognizing more things, very high engagement, very high positive feedback on this and a very high outcome rate, meaning like good outcomes that people feel better about themselves after a couple of weeks of gratitude journals. And so not only is it just providing push content to them, but also interactive content that actually gives them some tools to manage their behavioral health, and those tools are really evidence based, long history, as I mentioned, like a gratitude journal. Any psychiatrist or psychologist will agree that is one of the best mechanisms to combat depression or behavioral health. And so let's automate those tools. Let's understand those evidence based methodologies and combine those tools with points of access along the way. So the healthcare systems always have to be focused on access to their care and growing their market share, too. And so all those tools can, and content, can really be valuable for the nurturing. We see very high engagement, when 89% of the group or the consumers that engage in a gratitude journal, virtual coach chat, there's a message there. So it's interesting, in the HRA world, we have one of the lowest conversions because people are afraid to accept the call to action. But when you provide them a tool that's personalized and helps them manage their day to day activity and feelings, et cetera, very high engagement. Why? Because, again, it's going back to the autonomy, the compassion, the respect. You're giving them the room to do what they want to do, but still interact with your services and your brand. And that's really where the nurturing process becomes more powerful rather than just pushing emails to them, which is valuable in itself, and not discounting that. But more interactive tools and as technology really elevates, the consumers are expecting that from the healthcare system. They expect more interactive, they expect more machine learning. They expect you to know when to message them and how to message them. And so generic blasts and push, et cetera, are becoming less, less effective. We message over two million people last year alone. So we're very aware of what kind of messages are effective and engaging, what aren't.”

Mark Angus: “Thank you. That's really, really insightful there Greg. I really like those points that you mentioned, I mean, that interaction is very, very important, making sure that it's meaningful. I love that concept that you said about the gratitude journal said too often, people forget those elements. So thank you very much for providing those insights into what health systems can do to provide better access to care for mental health patients. We really appreciate you taking the time to be on this podcast with us today.”

Greg Gossett: “Great Thanks for having me, Mark.”

Mark Angus: “Thanks for listening to the Engaging Healthcare podcast presented by Stericycle Communication Solutions. Continue the conversation by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you enjoyed the podcast, be sure to subscribe. Until next time.”

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