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Do You Know What the #1 Challenge in Mental Health Care Is?

Do You Know What the #1 Challenge in Mental Health Care Is?

If there is one thing all behavioral health management companies know it is the fact that delivering services to patients is both an act of compassion and a business. The dual nature of healthcare services cannot be escaped. But in mental health, there is a specific challenge no other medical discipline face. It is the biggest challenge of all. Do you know what it is?

A clear and consistent lack of biomarkers.

Although the answer may seem like an oversimplification of a much more complicated problem, step back and think about biomarkers for one minute. In every other area of healthcare, service delivery starts with biomarkers. Without biomarkers in mental health, diagnoses cannot be black-and-white. Neither can prognoses nor treatment options.

Therapy to the Max

In their most recent edition, TIME magazine published a comprehensive piece discussing the state of mental health across America. The premise of the article was that America has reached its therapy peak, seemingly to no avail. An ever-deepening mental health crisis plagues our country despite more people than ever before going to therapy and taking prescription medications.

Though we might not all agree on every detail in the article, their underlying point is well made – psychiatry and psychology are not exact sciences. A behavioral health professional attempting to diagnose a patient’s issues does not have clear biomarkers to evaluate. The clinician can only listen to the patient’s description of feelings, thoughts, and symptoms and compare them to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

An internist working in the emergency department has an entirely different experience. An x-ray will tell the provider whether a patient’s leg is broken. A blood test will reveal results such as high cholesterol to the presence of certain drugs. Since the biomarkers are clear, a various range of physical abnormalities are comparatively easy to diagnose. Behavioral health does not have it this simple.

Patients Respond Differently

It is also clear that patients respond differently to the exact same treatments. And this is not just a matter of concern in mental health. It applies across the entire healthcare landscape. Different patient responses are amplified in the mental health setting because treatments often rely on diagnoses that are far from conclusive.

The TIME piece cited multiple studies in its discussion of the current state of America’s mental health. A few of those studies pointed out how prescription medications do not work for every patient to whom they are prescribed. One study demonstrated that upwards of 25% do not experience any real benefits from their prescriptions.

Other studies point out that not every patient benefits from therapy. Some patients even walk away from therapy worse off than when they started. This comes as no surprise as patients often feel like they are wasting their time and money on therapy.

Improving Mental Health Care Is Worthwhile

None of this is to say that psychiatry and psychology are invalid. This is not to say that we should give up on mental health care. It is simply to say that the mental health field has a huge hurdle to overcome in its lack of biomarkers. But it can be overcome. As such, improving mental health care is a worthwhile pursuit.

Behavioral health management companies such as Horizon Health exist to work alongside hospitals and other facilities as they seek to improve their mental health programs. We can assist in everything from managing patient services to day-to-day administration. We cannot change the lack of biomarkers, but we can help your organization be a better mental health provider.

Let’s Get to Work, Together

Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.