A lack of mental health professionals is pushing the US mental health system to a crisis point. And even if a psychiatrist commits someone to a facility, there may not be a bed for them. A startling 55 percent of all US counties have zero psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers to provide mental health services.  Meanwhile, the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) has tracked a 14% drop nationwide in the number of state psychiatric beds from 2005 to 2010.
These problems threaten access to timely and effective care for those with mental health needs.
In addition, the shortage of psychiatric beds and obstacles to care have been connected to increases in homelessness and incarcerations for mentally ill citizens. Aside from building more facilities or training more mental health professionals, what can be done to combat this problem? There is data available now in current systems to improve mental health access and get these people the care they need.
What are the mental health service needs?
Simply put, analyzing the right data can tell us where, what and how good the available mental health care services are. The use of advanced analytics can help tell us:
- Where providers/facilities/services are currently located
- What the current capacities are, and what future demand will be, using trend analysis
- The quality of care based on actual outcomes
This is obviously valuable information in the effort to provide services to those struggling with mental health issues, but how else can it help? Policy changes have a tremendous effect on mental health services. Also, there are many enhancements mental health programs are considering, but it can be difficult for them to understand the cost vs reward. Analytics can help mental health organizations:
- Ameliorate provider shortages caused by policy changes,
- Develop provider/facility expansion incentive programs
- Support telemedicine infrastructure initiatives that target underserved areas
- Improve campaigns encouraging people to enter the mental health profession
- Design patient/community mental health awareness campaigns
These are all potential benefits to a mature mental health data system. So what goes into that? Data from existing Medicaid/Medicare systems, hospital inpatient/outpatient systems, current and future Health Information Exchanges and current and future All Payer Claims Databases would be essential to the success of such a project, and significantly increase our analytic capability. The good news is, many states are in the process of making this a reality. For instance, most states have Medicaid claims data readily available and could pilot an analytic needs assessment just using that data.
Just having that information in hand could help the mentally ill gain access to quality care, and keep this crisis from growing. What is your state doing? Please share in the comments section.