In the News: Apr 16–23

Start-up Aims to Match Patients With Therapists

A recent MobiHealthNews article describes how SonderMind, a company that helps match patients and therapists while evaluating insurance compatibility, has been granted $27 million in Series B funding.

Two years ago, SonderMind—which gives patients the option to connect with therapists online or in person—announced $2.5 million in initial funding; since then, the behavioral health space has been booming, with behavioral health companies securing over $416 million last year. SonderMind is currently based in Colorado but, with the additional funding, plans to expand into Texas and Arizona. They are expected to form new partnerships with payers, employers and health systems.

To learn more about new models of care, technology and novel partnerships that are emerging in the behavioral health space, please register for our upcoming webinar Behavioral Health Care Landscape 2020. In addition to service line projections and updates and trends at both the CARE Family and procedure level, the webinar will focus on how new models and technology can be effectively utilized to address social determinants of health for a comprehensive behavioral health strategic plan.

ONC Project Attempts to Standardize SDOH Data

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) aims to standardize the collection of social determinants of health (SDOH) data to help inform health care decision making, as mentioned in a HealthITAnalytics article. Historically, collecting this data from patients has been a challenge for many organizations.

ONC will be collaborating with Open mHealth to share remotely collected vital sign data with providers and caregivers. Additionally, ONC is partnering with Fenway Health and athenahealth to encode patient-reported outcomes, which also capture SDOH data elements. Ultimately, their goal is to expand the SDOH data that can be integrated into EHRs to help providers deliver more personalized, effective and coordinated care.

SDOH have captured national attention, with some health systems steering clear of the daunting topic and many others diving in headfirst, which is being met with skepticism among wary stakeholders already in the space. Determining the extent to which provider systems can or should contribute to this arena is a complex undertaking. Please see our recent report Social Determinants of Health: Stitching Together Solutions, which aims to help organizations select a sustainable SDOH strategy that fits with their desired degree of involvement.

Expansion of Virtual Health Causes Fraud Concerns

The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted a temporary lift of federal restrictions on virtual health usage, which was limited to rural areas, in mid-March, with the services being praised for handling routine care without having to visit a doctor’s office. According to a recent Kaiser Health News article, these emergency policy changes have also drawn concerns that there could be a rise in billing fraud and abuse, as well as an increased risk in patient safety.

The main concerns include Medicare patients being taken advantage of by virtual health companies selling unwanted/unneeded equipment and/or services, as well as the relaxation of restrictions (eg, for opioid prescriptions) and licensing requirements (eg, doctors practicing across state lines) effecting patient safety. However, as those in the virtual health industry have pointed out, other health care branches are just as prone to billing abuse, and that the industry has “successfully stepped in to fill a void caused by many doctors temporarily shutting down their offices.”

COVID-19 has undoubtedly pushed virtual health to the forefront, bringing some to believe that the current exponential rise in usage will bring virtual health services into the mainstream. Many organizations have now leveraged their virtual health infrastructure as a critical aspect of care delivery, which has created new challenges and opportunities that are reshaping the health care landscape. Register now for our webinar, Virtual Health Update: Beyond the Inflection Point, to learn how your organization can utilize virtual health both now and in the future.

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