This article summarizes the white paper, The Online Couch: Mental Health Care on the Web, published in June 2012 by The California HealthCare Foundation. The full paper can be accessed via the CHCF website at http://www.chcf.org/publications/2012/06/online-couch-mental-health.
There is growing demand for mental health services that help people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety. For this expanding patient base, mental health care is moving outside of the therapist’s office, via virtual and online modes. An undersupply of mental health professionals, the adoption of communication and information technologies by both consumers and professionals, patient demand for access and convenience, and value-based payment in health care underlie this emerging trend.
Payors of health services recognize the economic burden of depression. More days of work are lost due to depression than any other medical condition. For this reason, depression is considered “the common cold of mental illness” by employers, for whom depression is the #1 financial line item in employee assistance programs (EAPs).
Thus, enlightened employers and public sector plan sponsors (eg. Medicaid, Veterans Administration) are targeting depression as a population health challenge among employees, dependents and enrollees. In response, health plans have begun to serve up innovative programs, such as computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT). One such health plan, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s UPMC Health Plan (with 1.5 million members) researched CCBT programs from all around the world, deciding on Beating the Blues (BtB). BtB originated in the United Kingdom and has a substantial evidence base to support its efficacy: the landmark publication presenting early evidence for BtB was published in 2003, and since then BtB has amassed the largest evidence base available for a CCBT program. Beyond BtB, other CCBT programs are available on the market in 2012, with several in development at the time The Online Couch went to print in June 2012.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of TILT Magazine ~ Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology.
Click here to read the entire PDF version of The Online Couch: Mental Health Care is going Online article.
Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, MA (Econ.), MHSA is a health economist and management consultant who works with health care stakeholders at nexus of health care and technology applying the tools of environmental analysis, scenario and strategic planning, forecasting, and health policy analysis. Jane writes the Health Populi blog and is a frequent public speaker and writer on the subject of health technology, consumers and economics. While Jane is passionate about her work, she is even more passionate about her family and home, Slow Food, Botticelli and Picasso, big Tuscan reds, and living a full and balanced life.
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