Two of the nation’s largest telehealth providers are expanding their telemental health platforms, reflecting a national effort to improve access to mental health care at a time when more people need help and providers are scarce.
American Well announced this week that it will acquire Aligned Telehealth, a California-based provider of “behavioral telehealth” and telepsychiatry services to hospitals and health plans. The deal expands a connected health service that Boston-based American Well has been offering since 2016, giving the company access to more West Coast health systems and building out a suite of dedicated services.
“Aligned Telehealth is the leading player in on-demand telepsychiatry services, supporting major medical centers and Medicaid plans in their efforts to meet the needs of patients,” Ido Schoenberg, MD, American Well’s Chairman and CEO, said in a press release. “By adding the Aligned clinical network and expertise, American Well can further expand and enhance our virtual behavioral health programs, an exciting and important endeavor that will positively impact patients, their families, and the treatment teams providing their care, while advancing clinical outcomes and reducing overall costs.”
“We’ve long believed that by applying powerful technology and the right clinical expertise we can improve access to mental health services for those who need it,” added Nitin Nanda, MD, Aligned Telehealth’s founder and CEO. “Within the hospital space and in service of the Medicaid population, we’ve proven this belief to be true. We’re excited to join forces with American Well to help patients further overcome the barriers of access, cost, time, and stigma when it comes to getting the care they need and reducing the burden on providers.”
The acquisition comes at a time when healthcare providers are looking for new ways to improve access to mental health services, in light of reports from organizations like the Kaiser Family Foundation that find only one of every four Americans in need of mental health care are getting those services.
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From a connected health standpoint, solutions range from telemental health services integrated with other telehealth platforms (like chronic care and ED services) to stand-alone platforms that offer on-demand access to specialists.
Just last month Teladoc Health, one of American Well’s primary competitors, announced the launch of Teladoc Medical Experts, a “virtual center of excellence” offering consumers access to specialists for complex care needs and mental health services.
“Given that nearly one in three adults with medical conditions also have a mental health condition, it is important to approach care holistically,” Lew Levy, MD, chief medical officer of New York-based Teladoc Health, said in a press release. “With Teladoc Medical Experts, right from the start we connect our members with a doctor who helps them navigate both the virtual and in-person options, leading them to trusted answers, quickly.”
In Michigan, Spectrum Health announced a partnership with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services to integrate teletherapy into its Spectrum Health Now platform, a direct-to-consumer telehealth service launched by the 12-hospital health system in 2014. Officials said the partnership was borne out of a Michigan Health Endowment Fund study that indicated almost half of the state’s residents in need of mental health services aren’t getting those services.
“We expect this arrangement will not only make behavioral health care more readily and immediately available but also will decrease the stigma around mental health services as people access care in the privacy of their own homes,” Tina Freese Decker, the health system’s president and CEO, said in a press release.
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And in Texas, Amerigroup Texas announced that qualified Medicaid recipients could use telehealth to access mental health services free of charge.
“This benefit empowers those who cannot access transportation or may have mobility challenges, as well as those who are experiencing non-emergency or non-life threatening issues late in the evening, over the weekend, or during a holiday when the only other option is seeking care in an emergency room,” Dr. Cealee Thomas, the health plan’s Medical Director, said in a press release. “It is a solution when people have to shelter in place or when they have been displaced in times of crisis. Also, this benefit comes without having to worry about out-of-pocket costs or unexpected medical bills.”
Congress is also looking to help, with bills like the Beneficiary Education Tools Telehealth Extender Reauthorization (BETTER) Act of 2019 (HR 3417) and the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act (HR 1301), both designed to reduce barriers and improve access to and coverage of mental health care.
美国之井本周宣布，将收购总部位于加州的“行为远程健康”和远程精神病学服务提供商 Alized Telehealth ，为医院和健康计划提供服务。该交易扩大了总部位于波士顿的美国井公司( American Well )自2016年以来一直提供的一项联网医疗服务，使该公司能够进入更多西海岸医疗系统，并建立一套专门的服务。
美国 Well 公司董事长兼首席执行官 Ido Schoenberg 在一份新闻稿中表示：“联合远程医疗是按需远程精神病学服务的领先参与者，支持主要医疗中心和医疗补助计划，以满足患者的需求。”“通过增加一致的临床网络和专业知识，美国之井可以进一步扩大和加强我们的虚拟行为健康计划，这是一个令人兴奋的重要努力，将积极影响病人，他们的家人和提供他们的护理的治疗团队，同时推进临床结果和降低整体成本。”
“我们一直认为，通过应用强大的技术和正确的临床专业知识，我们可以为那些需要的人提供更好的精神健康服务，”联合电信创始人兼首席执行官 Nitin Nanda 医学博士补充道。“在医院范围内，在为医疗补助人群服务的过程中，我们已经证明了这一信念是正确的。我们很高兴与 American Well 公司合作，帮助患者在获得所需的护理和减轻提供者负担方面进一步克服准入、成本、时间和耻辱等障碍。”
这次收购发生之际，医疗服务提供商正在寻找新的途径，以改善获得心理健康服务的机会，根据凯泽家族基金会( Kaiser Family Foundation )等组织的报告，只有四分之一需要精神健康护理的美国人得到了这些服务。
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从连接健康的角度来看，解决方案包括与其他远程健康平台（如慢性病护理和 ED 服务）集成的远程医疗服务，以及提供按需访问专家的独立平台。
就在上个月，美国 Wells 的主要竞争对手之一 Teladoc Health 宣布推出 Teladoc 医疗专家，这是一个“虚拟卓越中心”，为消费者提供复杂护理需求和精神健康服务的专家服务。
总部位于纽约的 Teladoc Health 首席医疗官 Lew Levy 在一份新闻稿中表示：“鉴于近三分之一的有医疗状况的成年人也有精神健康状况，整体护理是很重要的。”“在 Teladoc 医疗专家的帮助下，我们从一开始就将我们的会员与一位医生联系起来，医生帮助他们在虚拟和面对面的选择中都能找到可靠的答案。”
在密歇根州， Spectrum Health 宣布与 Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services 合作，将远程治疗纳入其 Spectrum Health Now 平台，这是一项由12家医院医疗系统于2014年推出的直接面向消费者的远程医疗服务。官员们表示，密歇根健康捐赠基金( Michigan Health Endowment Fund )的一项研究证实了这一合作关系。该研究表明，该州近一半需要精神健康服务的居民没有得到这些服务。
卫生系统总裁兼首席执行官蒂娜•弗里斯•德克( Tina Freese Decker )在一份新闻稿中表示：“我们预计，这一安排不仅会让行为医疗变得更容易、更立即可用，而且还会减少人们在自己家中的隐私中获得医疗服务时对心理健康服务的耻辱。”
Cealee Thomas 博士说：健康计划的医疗主任在新闻稿上说。“这是一个解决方案，当人们不得不在危机时期避难或流离失所时。而且，这种好处不需要担心自付费用或意外的医疗费用。”
国会也在寻求帮助，例如《2019年受益教育工具远程健康延伸再授权法案》（ BETTER ）和《精神健康远程医疗扩展法案》（ HR 1301），这两个法案都旨在减少障碍，改善获得和覆盖精神健康医疗的机会。