BEHAVIOURAL HEALTHCARE

R B Smarta, Vice President (HADSA), CMD-Interlink

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some muchneeded attention to mental health services in India. Various aspects of behavioural health including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. require considerable attention in today’s scenario. To efficiently meet people’s behavioural healthcare needs, hospitals and government have to be more vigilant in terms of mental healthcare services.

In a country like India, where there is no scarcity of human resources, material supplies, and even though infrastructure is getting developed and impacted positively, healthcare still remains a matter of concern. Majority of the Indian population describes good health as a ‘disease-free condition’; mental health is not often prioritised by them. Mostly in rural areas, where there is a minimum access to even primary healthcare services, people prefer Babas and God-men for mental illnesses.

Behavioural health, which is not only about mental health, but also consists of several disorders such as inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, defiant behaviour, drug abuse, criminal activity (more are shown in the Figure 1), etc. It is still a very new and upcoming concept in India.

Looking at the Indian hospital services for behavioural health, there is a strong need for innovative healthcare programmes to improve the behavioural health services. Moreover, government initiatives toward behavioural healthcare along with some policies facilitating hospitals to offer advanced services is a need of the hour.

Following can be some innovative steps on which Indian hospitals and government can work to build stronger behavioural healthcare facilities in the country.

1. Integrated behavioural health

Possible impact- Prevention, early detection, timely treatment and management of behavioural health problems can be achieved through Behavioural health integration.

Integrated behavioural healthcare, also known as 'behavioural health integration', is a blended care provided to treat medical conditions and behavioural health issues associated with it. It's a new way of 'caring for the whole person' and emerging as a high-quality healthcare service. This patient-centric approach focuses on overall health of individuals and can be introduced in Indian hospital facilities for better treatment outcomes.

Along with improved health and patient experience, this service can also reduce unnecessary healthcare expenditure and delays in treatments. Other benefits associated with integrated behavioural healthcare are-

  • Patients with chronic health conditions are often susceptible to behavioural health issues; integrated behavioural healthcare actively addresses this concern and provides services with overall health benefits.
  • Rather than going to a behavioural healthcare setting, they prefer the facilities which work like 'one-stop shopping’, such as hospitals. Hence, for hospitals, integrated behavioural healthcare can be a good move to make.
  • Having a behavioural health clinician in the facility can help medical providers to cope with the patient's behaviour-related problems more precisely.
  • In terms of cost, integrated behavioural healthcare can even bring down the expenditure involved in actual behavioural healthcare services as the patient's health condition becomes much better by the time of actual treatment.Integrating behavioural health services can be an essential step to initiate overall health impact on patients.

2. Technological transformation

Possible impact- Digital care provides ease of behavioural health counselling even from home where patient is surrounded by his loved ones which can lead to better outcomes. Moreover, digital apps can be highly helpful in updating caregivers about patient’s health status with real-time communication. Managing behavioural health can become easier and more impactful with digital transformations.

A range of disruptive technologies that can transform behavioural health ecosystems are emerging. Virtual assistants are one of those technologies. These are AI chatbots and emotion-based algorithms which offer psychological support and information by using natural interaction. Such chatbots can be implemented by behavioural healthcare providers which can not only bridge the gap between care but also can offer 24/7 service and support to the patient. TESS is an emerging example of such chatbots which delivers strategies to attain emotional well-being.

A range of disruptive technologies that can transform behavioural health ecosystems are emerging. Virtual assistants are one of those technologies. These are AI chatbots and emotion-based algorithms which offer psychological support and information by using natural interaction. Such chatbots can be implemented by behavioural healthcare providers which can not only bridge the gap between care but also can offer 24/7 service and support to the patient. TESS is an emerging example of such chatbots which delivers strategies to attain emotional well-being.

Moreover, the technologies involved in diagnostic support, neurological interventions, etc are also shaping entire healthcare differently. Physical, augmented and virtual reality providing hyper-realistic virtual environments offering individualised psychological interventions are also well accepted by patients recently.

3. Innovative programmes

Possible impact- Such programmes are essential in early detection and prevention of behavioural health problems amongst community. Moreover, patient can become selfefficient in terms of managing his behavioural health with little medical interventions.

Ranging from school children to adults and elderlies, psychological difficulties can be faced by anyone due to any reason. The hospitals and government have to be vigilant about ensuring the well-being of the people through an active collaboration between people and health practitioners.

An Indian hospital, Fortis, is an excellent example to mention over here. The hospital not only offers high-quality patient care but also promotes several programmes to boost the psychological health of the society. Few can be named as School Mental Health Programme, Sport Psychology, Organizational Psychology Initiative, etc. In these programmes, they conduct interactive talks, workshops where various aspects of behavioural health are touched effectively.

Government and hospitals should promote such programmes while supporting the infrastructure.

4. Data sharing

Possible impact- Real time data sharing is an essential step while treating the patient with behavioural health issues. It can prevent the unnecessary delays in the diagnosis and treatment of mentally ill patient and cause better communication amongst health providers.

During the pandemic, willingness amongst consumers to share health related data has increased to the noticeable extent. In future, there is a high possibility that consumers may share their behaviour health data as well. This data can be passively collected via sensing technologies which will lead to increased access to behavioural health treatment. Sharing data will not only inform the current health status of a person but also will allow early identification of the health issues before they arise.

This step requires advanced governance standards and a secure centralised database as ensuring consumers' privacy will remain a crucial factor.

Data sharing is becoming a reality in the US state of California with essential steps being implemented at the regulatory level. The legal guidelines published by the government of California are promoting efficient sharing of behavioural health and substance use disorder information which is strongly backed by database security technologies like block chain. This will be a revolutionary step for the behavioural healthcare of California.

Towards overall health

Addressing behavioural health issues of the population is an immensely important step toward improving the overall health. Huge number of adults and even a considerable count of adolescents are struggling with mental illness, however, not everyone is able to receive the required treatment. Policymakers and healthcare providers have to look into allocating more resources to behavioural health and redesigning the care models to target overall health of the patient.

The world has encountered enormous challenges in 2020, however, some disruptions in healthcare are evolving as future prospects. Governance and healthcare providers should strategically think in terms of using different technologies, scientific insights, data, business models etc. to transform behavioural healthcare services in India. To improve health and wellness and to create strong societies, such steps must be prioritised.

--Issue 54--

Author Bio

R B Smarta

R B Smarta, Founder and Managing Director of Interlink Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. Being a thought leader in Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical and wellness industry, he has been contributing globally through Interlink Consultancy and building business performance of his clients for 33 years. Having a Master's degree (M.Sc.) in Organic Chemistry in Drugs, MMS in Marketing, PhD in Management, and FRSA (Fellow of Royal Society of Arts) London, he is-perusing his passion of converting science to Business. Besides being a consultant, he has been teaching at IIM, prestigious management institutes, Pharmacy College, Pharmacists Associations, guiding PhD students and written as many as seven books on Management, Pharma, Nutra, Foods domain, and many articles in prestigious journals/magazines.

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