The mental well-being of individuals across the globe has been challenged in unimaginable ways due to Covid-19.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Household Pulse survey conducted between April 2020 and February 2021 found an average of 38 percent of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from 11 percent the prior year. Furthermore, a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted that emergency department visits for suicide attempts and drug overdoses were 26 and 36 percent higher, respectively, in 2020.
These staggering statistics demonstrate how the pandemic has exacerbated the existent mental health crisis. Furthermore, it’s widened the gap in providing access to mental healthcare.
The time is now
The ongoing effects of the pandemic have forced the pharmaceutical industry to rethink, adapt, and innovate the delivery of healthcare in ways that could not have been imagined just a year ago.
Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., (Otsuka), is particularly optimistic about the spotlight placed on digital tools and telemedicine over the last year. The company believes there are novel technologies that have the potential to strengthen the therapeutic alliance and redefine how patients with serious mental illnesses gain access to care and are treated.
Digital medicine is a welcome option in a new era of greater engagement and collaboration between patients, their physician, and caregivers, with the individual patient and his/her specific data becoming an important part of the treatment plan.
Though there are major challenges in getting innovative technology to be more widely adopted, keeping a long-term view will ultimately lead to more inventive options for patients and their families.
Patient centricity: The pathway to care
Mental Illness Awareness Week, beginning October 3, 2021, encourages leaders across the healthcare industry to take an interdisciplinary approach to treating people living with mental health challenges.
Comprehensive engagement is needed especially among patients living with severe mental illness who may often feel unsupported and undervalued. This can sometimes keep them from seeking help and accessing services and treatment.
Digital therapeutics are poised to become a major healthcare pathway, promising to improve outcomes and reduce the cost of care in the U.S. But huge disparities in healthcare laid bare by the Covid-19 crisis threaten to prevent underserved populations from accessing and benefiting from the new therapies.
Considering the shortage of mental health professionals, barriers to care and sub-optimal responses to treatments experienced by patients, stakeholders must come together to explore new and novel approaches to treating mental illness. Digital therapeutics will enable access to treatments wherever patients are, particularly in rural settings where there is a lack of mental healthcare HCPs.
Integrating digital therapeutics into clinical workflows and pursuing unconventional partnerships across the healthcare ecosystem will also be critical. Such an approach will help ensure that digital-therapeutic products are tailored to the needs of diverse populations. It will also encourage local health institutions to embrace them, which will help drive broader adoption.
It’s time to meet people where they are.
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