A panel of health care industry leaders and subject matter experts met to discuss more accessible, convenient, and reliable patient care and the lifting of behavioral health's stigma, hosted by HLTH on October 29, 2020 as part of the HLTH Matters GoLive Webinar Series. HLTH (pronounced "health") is a community of leaders, innovators, and pioneers of the health industry and span across the entire health ecosystem; payers, providers, employers, investors, startups, pharma, policymakers, and the patient community to discuss the trends and strategies needed to create health's future.

The discussion was moderated by Christopher Donovan, Partner and Co-Chair of Foley & Lardner's Health Care Industry Team, and included panelists Sarah Ahmad (SVP of Product Innovation and Head of Magellan Health Studio at Magellan Health), Rob Marsh (SVP and COO at Kindred Behavioral Health) and Justin Hunt, MD (Medical Director and Head of Psychiatry at Ginger).

Mr. Donovan kicked off the discussion with the "three C's" of behavioral health; 1) Cultural shift, as we've turned the corner from what was a stigma associated with the need for care; 2) COVID crisis and isolation have accelerated challenges and increased the need for care; and 3) Capital. There is very high interest by the investment community in this area making it an area with enormous growth.

"To demonstrate value you need to have good, reliable outcome measures." - Dr. Justin Hunt, Medical Director and Head of Psychiatry at Ginger

Using a sports metaphor, Mr. Donovan asked the panelists where we are with behavior health and technology. Does it feel like we are in the early innings? Dr. Hunt agreed that we are still in the early innings, but sees a bright future. He believes there is "still a tremendous and widening service and delivery gap" between those seeking care and those providing care. That said, he was encouraged by the amazing amount of innovation that has resulted with the relaxing of regulatory barriers in the space. Ms. Ahmad agreed, but addressed that we are in the "first inning" in terms of sustained engagement. Mr. Marsh added his own perspective, indicating that we are in the mid-innings with regard to the understanding and acceptance of behavioral health. His view is that we are "still in the parking lot" when it comes to the collaboration and coordination among the ecosystem, and that the systems we have are disjointed.

Next, Mr. Donovan asked if there are areas of behavioral health where we can accelerate at a greater level than others are? The panelists offered a very common theme of care coordination and monitoring at both the physical well-being and behavioral level. Looking across that whole care continuum is a growth opportunity that aids transforming the experience. From the stigma perspective, offering telehealth and virtual solutions is very helpful from a privacy standpoint but technology must be secure. We must have secured platforms and be able to ensure confidentiality.

In terms of obstacles to growth, the panelists mentioned access to clinicians, redundant state-based licensing, the limitation of prescribing due to the Ryan Haight Act, and clinical severity barriers that still need to be worked through.

With many investors investing in this space, Mr. Donovan noted one concern is adequate access to clinicians. In terms of bringing clinicians into your network, Dr. Hunt offered that one thing they concentrate on at Ginger is building tools for the clinicians to make their lives easier. Mr. Marsh agreed with the access concern stating, "across the country there is a dire shortage of psychiatrists and clinicians."

"The only way we are going to break down the stigma associated with mental health is by talking about it as often as we can and normalize the need for behavioral health. Mental health is just as important as a physical checkup."  - Sarah Ahmad, SVP of Product Innovation and Head of Magellan Health Studio at Magellan Health

In closing the discussion, the panelists turned to the future. Down the road, when we come out of the pandemic, where will we be with behavioral health? They suggest that technology advances will continue, looking more and more at the whole person, coordinated care, and sustained engagement, as well as improved conversational AI (chatbots). In the next five years, we expect to see consolidation in the market and M&A activity, and even further out, the panelists envision that virtual reality, which allows you to face fears and anxieties in a safe, controlled environment, will be more commonplace.

You can access the full webinar by clicking here, and to learn more about the HLTH Matters GoLive Webinar Series, click here.

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