Taking care of mental health during COVID-19 with the help of reimbursable remote technology

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With the COVID-19 public health emergency, there has been a dramatic reduction of in-person mental health care, as well as an increase in symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Nearly half (45%) of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus. The need for remote health care services grows as more people struggle with their mental health, while continuing to follow necessary social distancing measures.

Remote patient monitoring combined with technology-assisted mental health interventions, like heart rate variability training and mindfulness practices, can help address this growing need for affordable, effective mental health care to help reduce worry, stress, and anxiety throughout the day.

Even before COVID-19, more than half of the estimated 40 million Americans suffering from anxiety or depression were not receiving treatment. This gap in mental health care is likely exacerbated by the fact that approximately 111 million people live in “mental health professional shortage” areas. The nationwide shortage of mental health care providers makes it difficult, particularly for those in underserved communities, to access mental healthcare, even when there is not a public health emergency due to a pandemic. Now, accessing mental health support becomes increasingly urgent as individuals across the globe deal with unprecedented loss, uncertainty, and stress.

Telehealth has become a clear solution to lack of mental health care access because it enables behavioral health care services to be delivered remotely over secure video-conferencing technology. Supporting this solution, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded its Medicare telehealth coverage during the COVID-19 crisis, enabling more patients to receive virtual care services from their doctors without traveling to a healthcare facility, or worrying about affordability. In addition, the FDA noted in their updated policy guidance: “The use of digital health technologies, including software as a medical device or other digital therapeutics solutions, may improve mental health and well-being of patients with psychiatric conditions during periods of shelter-in-place, isolation, and quarantine.”

Addressing these salient needs, it’s important for providers to be able to direct patients to a telehealth device and collaborative care service that ensures their patients’ mental health concerns do not fall through the cracks. These types of services can vary, but it’s important that they offer not only virtual coaching, but allow providers to track important biomarker data directly from the patients’ electronic health record.This collaborative care model ensures that patients receive ongoing support, addressing the common concern of maintaining patient engagement without requiring extra time commitments from doctors when it comes to remote patient monitoring programs.

Biofeedback programs are one way to track important measures such as Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Similar to how a glucose monitor device alerts a diabetic to low blood sugar, when the wearer is in a low HRV state, the device automatically begins an HRV biofeedback dose. It continues monitoring the wearer as they breathe with the vibrations, ending when their HRV is back above the target range. As a result of this simple, continuous feedback loop, less and less time is spent in the low HRV zone, and average HRV increases over time, enabling the nervous system to respond more calmly in all situations.

The wearability and continuous monitoring capabilities of these devices offer a valuable tool for doctors who wish to seamlessly connect their patients to remote mental health services. Whether utilized in between appointments with a physician, as a routine well-being practice, or in response to acutely stressful events, they offer a flexible option for those who need more support during this challenging time.

Whether you are a patient or mental health provider, you can find more information about effective remote patient monitoring devices from Lief Therapeutics, an integrated DrChrono partner.