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Data’s role in the California mental health crisis

By Linnie Greene, Staff Writer at Arcadia
Care Management Health Equity and SDoH Patient Engagement

As the Golden State contends with high rates of mental illness, data could empower healthier Californians and better, more impactful outreach.

Mental health is a widely-acknowledged problem in California, just like the rest of the United States, but when you break it down by the numbers, the reality is especially bleak: in February 2023, 31.7% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety/depressive disorder, according to this fact sheet from the Kaiser Family Foundation. One key issue is that mental illness isn’t self-contained, and its impacts on other facets of life and health range from an increased likelihood of substance abuse to an increased risk of physical ailments like diabetes or heart disease.

In short: people need treatment, but providing that proves challenging. When it’s time to dig deep within a patient population to see who needs care most, or to figure out the most efficient way to allocate resources, data analytics is a healthcare organization’s most potent tool. Here, we’ll explore how California groups can leverage powerful technology in service of more peaceful minds and healthier populations.

How patient stratification can draw a mental health roadmap

One major way a data analytics platform can help California healthcare groups intervene in mental health crises is through patient stratification. For hospitals dealing with a large patient volume, it’s intimidating to imagine sifting through each record in search of a particular diagnosis or issue, but technology expedites that process at hyper-speed, quickly combing through multiple sources (like EHRs, claims, and census data) to identify where intervention might have the most impact.

Care management for body and mind

Once the right population has been identified, a data platform also helps organizations execute effective care. A primary example of this is care management, a program where those with chronic issues can receive coordinated, long-term treatment for a single issue or multiple overlapping diagnoses. For mental health, that might look like a program specifically targeting depression and diabetes, or it could entail social workers and physicians collaborating to provide treatment to a particularly high-impact zip code.

There are many diverse examples of care management programs, but what’s most critical is that they’re run on evidence. Data allows administrators to gauge how well they’re working, then improve continuously so that resources are having the greatest impact.

SDoH and overall health

Social determinants of health refers more broadly to the way people’s work and environments shape their overall wellbeing. Research shows that social determinants and mental health outcomes are closely linked, like most other facets of health, which means that improvements often in tandem.

On the opposite coast, New York City’s supervised use sites found that of 46,000 patients with severe mental illness, 5% saw their primary care provider within a year, but 62% of them sought treatment for behavioral health. In value-based care, where prevention and whole-person health is the goal, it’s clear that these two pieces of healthcare need to operate collaboratively. With a great data platform, a physician could surface a depression screening to a colleague, or a staff psychiatrist could remind her patients about routine vaccinations.

Obstacles to care like poverty, housing insecurity, and social stigma can keep a population from seeking treatment. While data can’t immediately solve these quandaries, it can draw a clearer picture of the size and scope of the issue, and help California healthcare organizations better understand what’s exacerbating a statewide problem.

Data-driven outreach

With the help of data, you can find the right patients, gain the important context, and target the best interventions. But you can also engage the right people without the drudgery of manual calls or texts, automating outreach to a large volume with the click of a button.

Consider the time it would take to individually follow up with every new parent on a maternity ward, versus supplying a post-partum depression screening at regular intervals via text. From there, imagine the difference between reaching, say, 1,500 patients simultaneously, versus the time it would take for staff to do this manually. If even 25% of those 1,500 respondents replied, that’s a large percentage of people who are now engaged in their own care, and through this communication, healthcare organizations can build loyalty, community, and continuity within their populations.

An adaptable solution for a diverse state

Healthcare looks different everywhere, which is why it’s crucial to have a solution that can adapt to a population’s specific needs. From Eureka to Chula Vista, we’re partnering with California healthcare visionaries to close gaps in mental health and beyond. Learn more about our solutions for the Golden State.