6 takeaways from Going Digital’s 2023 Behavioral Health Tech conference.

6 takeaways from Going Digital’s 2023 Behavioral Health Tech conference.

Gaurang Choksi, Violet Founder and CEO, and Kay Nikiforova, Head of Clinical and Research recently spoke at Going Digital’s 2023 Behavioral Health Tech conference in Phoenix, Arizona. BHT2023 is the largest conference focused on expanding access to mental health and substance use care through technology, and health equity, bringing together health plans, employers, behavioral health providers, digital health companies, investors and policy makers.

“Violet participated in Behavioral Health Tech because without inclusive behavioral and physical health care, we can't have health equity,” explains Gaurang. “There were so many authentic people there who wanted to meaningfully facilitate change. Plus, a lot of our partners like Octave, NOCD, TimelyCare, and Brightline attended, so it was an opportunity to support them as well.” 

Solome Tibebu, the founder of and host of Behavioral Health Tech is a supporter of Violet’s mission to build inclusive health care. “When I learned about Violet, I was ecstatic to see that there could be an objective, scalable mechanism to measure cultural competence across provider networks.” She adds, “When it comes to health care, lives depend on it, not to mention tremendous efficiency and cost savings by getting inclusive care done right the first time around. I believe in the power of technology to really scale this important mission, and am excited to see the outcomes that Violet has demonstrated with their health system and health plan partners.”

While the main subject of the conference was behavioral health care and integrated care, Kay explains that health equity came up in nearly every conversation that they had. “Much of the focus of the conference was about access to care, and you can't talk about access without talking about health equity.”

We sat down with Gaurang and Kay to discuss the big takeaways they had attending from BHT 2023:

  1. Integrated care is a big focus.

Gaurang: One major theme from the conference was the importance of quality integrated care.

It's easier for a patient when their behavioral health care providers and care team are actually integrated and talking with their physical health team. The clinicians are all on the same page and know how to best support a patient when they have a universal view of their health care journey. It comes down to better care delivery models and better systems that support data exchange.

Kay: A lot of the conversations around integrated care is about dollars spent in the medical space because that's where a lot of health plans and health systems really end up spending the most. But one of the things that we found, and we've known this for probably decades at this point, is that if you invest money into behavioral health, you will save people money on the medical side because medical comorbidities will not get as bad.

  1. Data infrastructure is being invested in to understand social determinants of health.

Gaurang: In Colorado, they're launching an information exchange for patients and the social factors that are affecting them. In Washington DC, they just built something similar—and a lot of states are asking, “How do we make it easier to collect and share data on social risk and social determinants for every single patient so that plans can provide better care for patients?”

Kay: The White House just put out their playbook to address social determinants of health, with the first pillar focused on expanding data gathering and sharing, including interoperability.

  1. Questions around implementing value-based behavioral health care.

Gaurang: Everybody's struggling to figure out how we move away from just fee-for- service into more value-based care for behavioral health care. And it ties back to the first takeaway about integrated care, which is: if we do behavioral health care with value-based care right, the impact will be more on the medical spending side. This may be harder to then connect back into why the behavioral health care company is getting paid for those cost savings, however.

Kay: There is still this big data problem because while we focus so much on clinical outcomes, health care companies are trying to figure out what data they're supposed to be collecting, what format it's supposed to be, and what clinical outcomes are important—and then figuring out how to get that to the insurers. At the same time, it's a question of whether the payers are set up for value-based care to be able to process in the way that everyone wants it to be. Essentially, it seems like folks aren’t quite sure what we’re supposed to be measuring yet system-wide. 

  1. Viewing health equity as strategy.

Gaurang spoke on a panel entitled, Powering Inclusive Care - Driving Measurement Based Health Equity, with Kaakpema “KP” Yelpaala, MPH, Rachel Kotok Goldberg, and Nicholas St. Fleur. 

Kay: There was an emerging theme that health equity is health strategy, and it should be a part of clinical strategy moving forward. People are starting to think about how they build out of health equity instead of building health equity in. KP also pointed out a lot of organizations will not actually know their patient population. And this goes back to the data issue that up until recently, it was sometimes illegal to get information on the providers and even get information on the patients.

Gaurang: It caught me by surprise when the Health Equity Team of a major health plan shared that up until recently they weren't allowed to collect demographic [SOGI and REAL] data on providers nor patients. This was a Pennsylvania-based health plan and the legislation changed within the past decade permitting, and even encouraging, data collection.

  1. Clinicians are even more present in building mental health technology.

Kay spoke on a panel entitled, Will Clinicians in Leadership Roles Save Mental Healthtech? with Dr. David Cooper, PsyD, Dr. C. Vaile Wright, Ph.D., and Dr. Jessica Jackson. They discussed how the APA is addressing the proliferation of mental health technology and why psychologists play a pivotal role in the future of healthtech.

Kay: Clinicians being present in building mental health tech was one of my big rallying cries—we're starting to create care models and digital health technology that’re based on clinical efficacy and ethics first and foremost. Clinicians and researchers need to be in the C-suite if you're building technology for clinicians or care delivery. 

  1. Moving beyond skepticism around clinical education.

Gaurang: It felt like people have been burned with clinical education in the past and there was a lot of overall skepticism where people were saying, “Can you build health equity with just clinical education or do you need more?”

Kay: There’s a second part to that, too. Because as soon as we started talking about the fact that Violet’s clinical education is going to be directly tied to HEDIS and STARS measures, NCQA accreditation, the QHP Enrollee survey, et cetera, people's eyes would light up because they realized that it wasn't just fluff, it’s translating cultural competent into a hard skill by focusing on clinical quality. 

Gaurang: So many organizations have been offered DEI-like training for health equity that it turns into a check-the-box thing.  Or we heard people say, “We really like education, but we're trying to better understand how it can be delivered to actually improve health care because the once-a-year health equity training isn't doing the job.”

Kay: A good example is our LEP/NEP [Limited English Proficient/No English Proficiency] collection, Tyler Cross [Education Manager at Violet] embedded a lot of the CLAS requirements throughout and also touched on the HEDIS and CMS measures that focus on language requirements. So the course is great because it covers cultural competence and being able to understand what a LEP/NEP patient needs, but it also covers the hard requirements that an organization needs to be following to meet regional and national regulations.

To learn more about how Violet can help your organization in achieving NCQA Health Equity Accreditation or enhancing HEDIS/STARS quality measures through our CE/CME curriculum, request a demo today.

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