An analytic approach to improving mental health access, quality and costs


Part 1: The challenge and the opportunity

Mental illness continues to profoundly affect the nation’s population and, for the most part, remains greatly under analyzed.  This is the first entry in a series about the mental health problem in the US, and how an analytic approach can improve care for the mentally ill and reduce the associated costs.

In 20121, an estimated 20%, or approximately 44 million, of adults aged 18 or older were living with a mental illness in the US. This does not include substance abuse related numbers which would drive the total higher.

The numbers do not differ much for children. A recent study from the CDC indicates that somewhere between 13-20% of all children living in the US had experienced a mental disorder in the previous year.  Within this mental health population only 38% of all adults, and less than 20% of all children/adolescents, are treated for their mental illness2.

Those who go untreated for mental illness bear a cost to themselves and potentially the rest of society. They maintain a high risk for a variety of unhealthy/unsafe behaviors such as suicide, alcohol/drug abuse, violent/self-destructive behavior and increased potential to be homeless or incarcerated.

The financial impact is evident. As of 2008, an estimated $60 billion was spent on mental health compared to $35 billion in 19963.  In addition, US employers every year lose almost $22 billion dollars from decline in production due to mental illness4. That number is a direct result of the estimated 217 million work days which are lost/partially lost from mental illness5.

The social impact further affects family/friends/work/school/public services and while much has been said in the news about violent crime and the mentally ill, in actuality about 3-5% of violent crime is attributed to someone with severe mental illness. In fact, severely mentally ill people are almost 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the rest of the population6.

While successful initiatives have been launched to create awareness and address mental illness in a more comprehensive manner, much more can be done to support and affect positive change across the entire mental health spectrum.  Integrating readily available data from clinical, claim and other government/commercial/social systems can lay a foundation for deriving valuable insight and target mental health initiatives surrounding:

  • Access to Care
  • Patient Coordination & Quality of care
  • Cost Containment

Applying advanced data management, analytics and visualization technology to this data could lead to prodigious care & payment delivery enhancements in the mental health areas listed above.

Ultimately, an analytic approach can lead to better outcomes not just in mental health but also in physical health and social services as well.  I’ll delve into access to care in Part 2.


About Author

Jeremy Racine

Healthcare Strategy Consultant

Jeremy has immersed himself in big data and analytics for 14 years, including a comprehensive focus on health care and ways the public and private sectors can deploy technology to improve population health and reduce costs. He knows that analytics is critical to driving health care modernization, and understands the complex implications of the Affordable Care Act, new care and payment models and Medicaid changes. As a member of the SAS State & Local Government practice, Jeremy works with the public sector to help them understand how analytics can empower modernization and enhancements across the healthcare continuum.

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