Case Study: Medical Practices Improve Patient Access to Behavioral Health Care with SonderMind

9
min read

Our country may be in the midst of a mental health crisis, but the need for improved access to behavioral health care existed long before the arrival of COVID-19. According to a research study¹ conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year. While the most common illnesses can be extremely debilitating, many people who suffer do not receive adequate treatment.  

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that the health care sector adapts quickly and effectively to maintain a high standard of behavioral health care for patients. But this is challenging, and sometimes nearly impossible, for medical providers who are constantly overburdened with excessive administrative tasks, out-of-network referrals, inaccurate resources, and more.

With a diverse network of licensed mental health professionals, SonderMind partners with medical practices to streamline administrative processes, freeing up resources for medical providers and administrators to better serve their current patients and attract interest from potential new patients. 

Problem: Medical Providers Are Burdened by Behavioral Health Care Access Issues  

According to a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine², the average medical provider spends over half of their time managing administrative tasks. As a result, overburdened doctors and staff members face difficulties when coordinating effective behavioral health care for patients, an effort that is often labor-intensive and time-consuming. An unintended side effect of this can be longer-than-ideal time frames between a patients’ initial appointment inquiry and their actual appointment, delaying patient care. 

Additionally, the National Council for Behavioral Health³ reports that nearly half of Americans see cost and poor insurance coverage as the top barriers for accessing behavioral health. One reason for this problem involves a lack of mental health professionals who accept patients’ insurance. While an issue in and of itself, this problem is exacerbated when a patient receives an out-of-network referral to a mental health professional that does not accept traditional health insurance plans. When this occurs, a patient may not follow up with the referral, leaving medical providers to end up wondering what happened to their patient. 

Compounding this issue are the inaccurate lists of in-network mental health services that insurance companies provide their policyholders to begin with. These ghost networks include discrepancies between the providers listed and the locations associated with those providers, incorrect contact information, and providers who are not taking patients at the time an inquiry is made although listed as such. In one study⁴, researchers attempted to contact each provider listed on a ghost network twice, but were unable to schedule an appointment with 74% of the providers listed due to such discrepancies. 

Solution: Digital and Support Services Integration with SonderMind 

Excessive administrative complexity and structural barriers to access are unnecessarily impeding quality behavioral health care services and, as a result, positive patient outcomes. In grappling with these issues, SonderMind has identified major administrative areas that, when adequately reformed, may remove some of these barriers. 

The first of these reforms requires cutting back on the time medical personnel spend on administrative tasks, freeing these professionals to spend more time with their patients, and reducing the waiting period patients currently face when seeking an appointment. To satisfy this requirement, SonderMind's partners benefit from a digital platform that aids in effectively coordinating behavioral health care for patients without having to take on any more administrative burden themselves.

The next area of reform requires expanding patient access to in-network behavioral health care services and licensed providers. To avoid out-of-network referrals and ghost network inaccuracies that often prevent patients from receiving the care they need, SonderMind's individualized client matching experience utilizes a diversified network of licensed providers. This matching process prioritizes patients' needs when determining potential patient-therapist connections. To eliminate or alleviate structural barriers to behavioral health care access, factors like a patients' general location or home address, insurance provider, personal life and work schedule, and in-person or telehealth preferences play a part in the therapist selection process.

Taken together, the specialized personnel, technology, and data capabilities SonderMind offers to partners and patients who access the platform aid in bettering the physician and client behavioral health care coordination experience alike.

Outcomes: Increased Patient Satisfaction and Client Conversion Rates 

By significantly reducing the administrative burden on medical personnel, SonderMind allows our partners the ability to increase patient access to quality behavioral health care services. While such changes are beneficial in their own right, these structural reforms further promote positive outcomes in patients’ overall health. Patients who can easily access the services they need in an effective manner are more likely to benefit from those services and continue to seek them out. At the same time, positive mental health outcomes can directly affect physical health outcomes as well.  

A better patient experience also translates to an increased likelihood that patients will commit to the services they seek. Data showcasing the follow through from patients on primary care mental health recommendations is limited, and therefore a continued challenge for physicians to confirm whether their patient successfully navigated treatment. Several studies have suggested that under traditional care coordination to mental health, patients have upwards to a 50% chance of not seeking care. A recent review of the impact of SonderMind’s innovative programs found significant increases in client conversion rate (CCR). The table below indicates the CCR for clients who completed a behavioral health appointment within the first seven or thirty days after submitting a New Client Request through the SonderMind platform.

Client Population 7-day CCR 30-day CCR
General SonderMind Client Population 14.70% 34.30%
Embedded Care Coordinator Model 19.70% 57%
Med Practice (Sans-Care Coordination) 19.10% 47.10%

In this study, CCR is defined as the percentage of New Client Requests that were later accompanied by the completion of a behavioral health appointment. The rate itself is determined based on the number of days between the initial request and the initial appointment. The table shows the percentage of clients who converted within seven and thirty days depending on how clients arrived at SonderMind's platform. The client populations compared here consist of SonderMind's general client population, clients that arrived at SonderMind's platform via a medical practice partnership that utilized a dedicated medical practice point person to coordinate care, and versus those practices that relied on the patient to initiate their own new client request.

The comparison of CCR rates for the client populations listed indicates that clients who come to SonderMind via a medical practice partnership are significantly more likely to complete their first appointment with a therapist within both the seven-day and thirty-day time frames.

We are always looking for medical practices and licensed therapists to partner with SonderMind through our exclusive network. If you’d like to see an increase in your patients’ access to quality mental health care, we can help. To learn more about partnership opportunities, reach out to us at [email protected] or 720-674-8866.  

List of References:

  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. [2020]. “Nearly 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year...” Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/mhstats
  2. Annals of Family Medicine. [2017]. “The average medical provider spends over half of their time managing administrative tasks...” Retrieved from https://www.annfammed.org/content/15/5/419.long 
  3. National Council for Behavioral Health. [2018]. New Study Reveals Lack of Access as Root Cause for Mental Health Crisis in America. Retrieved from https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/press-releases/new-study-reveals-lack-of-access-as-root-cause-for-mental-health-crisis-in-america/
  4. Malowney M, Keltz S, Fischer D, Boyd JW. Availability of outpatient care from psychiatrists: a simulated-patient study in three U.S. cities. Psychiatr Serv. 2015;66(1):94-96. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201400051
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