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Patient Innovation Pt 2: Behavioral Health

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Jessica Shaw

Over the course of only a few months, the mental and behavioral health industry has procured increased awareness and advocacy for legitimizing the significance of both mental illnesses and behavioral health disorders. With over 40 million people suffering from depression and anxiety in the United States, 36.9% of them seek treatment while the other 38.5 million are facing it alone (1). As society becomes more aware of these issues, it is important that healthcare providers only continue to intervene by making services more accessible and affordable for the public. This second installment of our “Patient Innovation” #rtblogseries focuses on the differences between mental and behavioral health as well as discusses new technologies that have made virtual care more efficient and reliable for patients. 

What Is The Difference Between Mental Health and Behavioral Health?

Both mental and behavioral health involve similar issues, however mental health encompasses the biological and psychological components of an illness while behavioral health refers to physical behaviors or actions (1). Even though they vary slightly, each depends on the other and can co occur with one another as well. For example, someone with body dysmorphia (mental health) is more likely to have an eating disorder (behavioral health) and someone who struggles with substance abuse (behavioral health) is at more risk of depression and suicidal tendencies (mental health). 

Why Is The Term Behavioral Health More Common?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines behavioral health as “all contributions to mental wellness including substances and their abuse, behavior, habits and other external forces”. This is why the healthcare industry has commonized the term behavioral health, since it is poor behaviors that often lead to mental health issues. In particular, the pandemic has prompted strict social distancing and stay at home orders which have affected all of our normal everyday behaviors. With these changes, we have been taken away from some of the luxuries we used to enjoy and people have been faced with isolating themselves from society, causing an influx of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, both of which are the most common mental illnesses in the United States (2). 

Why Does Mental and Behavioral Healthcare Matter?

Just as behavioral and mental health are linked together, your physical wellbeing is also codependent on how you take care of yourself mentally. With neuropsychiatric disorders as the most common cause for disabilities, the CDC and NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) reports that 18.7% of Americans lose their lives to premature mortality in addition to suicide remaining the tenth leading cause of death in the United States (4). These statistics prove that if you don’t practice healthy habits and participate in constructive behaviors, your mental health will indeed suffer. In order to fulfill a balanced, happy lifestyle you should focus not only on eating healthy and exercising daily but also pursuing positivity as well as engaging in activities that help manage, monitor and improve your sanity.  

How Has Technology Affected Behavioral and Mental Health In 2020?

Now that people are beginning to understand the importance of mental and behavioral health, new technologies have been developed that help expand accessibility to counseling services as well as increase the amount of resources available for people to research, study and promote better self care. Technologies like self management apps, skill training games or even smartphone sensors that track movement patterns and behaviors, all offer patients with convenient, 24 hour support in addition to giving providers an alternative method of collecting quantitative evidence that will help streamline mental health research (5). Although, with these benefits come issues of privacy and transparency. In addition to data protocols, equal access to treatments and responsible practice regulations, these improvements would help eliminate stigmas surrounding mental health as well as create a more empathetic environment for those who struggle with mental illnesses and behavioral disorders (6). If you want to learn more, check out this list of 2020’s top 25 mental health apps.

RPM For Behavioral and Mental Health

What Are Some Examples Of RPM In The Behavioral and Mental Health Industry?

Along with apps and other digital resources, one of the most recent RPM innovations for the mental and behavioral health community is heart rate variability (HRV), a method of measuring variations in between your heartbeat. Controlled by your autonomic nervous system (ANS), these variations distribute signals to the rest of your body and mitigate your reactionary functions. The faster your ANS is able to respond to stimuli, the more flexible and resilient you are to stress or other negative instigators (7). On the other hand, if your HRV is low, you are at more risk of cardiovascular disease and worsening depression or anxiety. In order to measure HRV, chest strap heart monitors and some finger or wrist sensors are available to easily track changes in heart rate and proactively manage modifications in behavior. Similarly, fitness trackers can also be used to automate predictions of emotion through ranges of heartbeat activity (8/9). 



Be sure to check out the third post of our “Patient Innovation” #rtblogseries that will highlight some interesting RPM developments within the chronic pain management industry. 

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