Health IT, Patient Engagement

Why mental health matters in the healthcare continuum

During a session at the MedCity ENGAGE conference in November, panelists will discuss why behavioral health is a crucial part of healthcare and how technology can aid patients suffering from such conditions.

Despite its significance on overall health and well-being, mental health often gets overlooked. Patients don’t always get the help they need, whether due to the stigma surrounding mental health or a lack of access to care.

Why does it get swept under the rug? Can organizations leverage the latest technology to enable patients to get the care they need? Questions like these will be up for discussion during a breakout session at MedCity’s upcoming ENGAGE conference in San Diego on November 6-7.

Writer and author Thomas Lee, who will be moderating the panel, weighed in on the stigma surrounding behavioral health.

“One of the reasons it probably makes people uncomfortable is that you can’t see it,” he said in a phone interview. “But … it fundamentally alters someone’s behavior.”

When someone breaks an arm, other people can see the cast and the impact of the broken bone. For someone with a mental health issue, others can’t see anything physically off but they can still see the effects of the condition. This concept may make them feel unsettled.

Lee, who suffers from clinical depression and anxiety, is working to change that stigma by advocating for mental healthcare. He writes about his own journey and experiences on Facebook. Though Lee was initially writing for himself and as a way to cope, he eventually discovered his writing helped other people too.

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Attend MedCity ENGAGE to hear from healthcare experts like Thomas Lee and Martha Temple. Hurry – early bird deadline ends September 13. Save an additional $50 with MCN50. Register now.


When patients decide to seek treatment, how much does technology come into play? Can tech tools help patients get the assistance they need?

One panelist at ENGAGE, Optum Behavioral Health president and CEO Martha Temple, says yes.

“Technology can be an excellent tool when it comes to overcoming the barriers of stigma, access to quality treatment and gaps in coordination of medical and behavioral healthcare,” she said via email.

Optum is utilizing advanced analytics to pinpoint members who could benefit from mental health support. The organization then offers such patients a virtual visit option so they can connect with a behavioral health provider via video or phone. Additionally, Optum leverages technology to ensure all care is coordinated between case managers and clinicians.

Lee agreed that tech can be a useful way to assist patients, but noted it’s not a silver bullet.

“You should look at it as an overall holistic approach,” he said.

Just as medication alone, exercise alone and therapy alone won’t solve all of an individual’s problems, technology by itself won’t magically fix everything.

“It’s some sort of combination of all those things,” Lee said.

Photo: Benjavisa, Getty Images