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Americans have always had to struggle with various drug addictions: the opioid crisis being the latest substance abuse scare, along with heroin usage, which just hit a 20-yr high. At the same time, the number of people suffering with chronic conditions is climbing.
It's enough to send us all to therapy to deal with these stressful situations. And it's no wonder mental health investments are on the rise.
AbleTo, which provides tech-based behavioral health solutions, is the latest to get attention, landing $36.6 million in Series D funding, led by Bain Capital Ventures, with Aetna, .406 Ventures, Sandbox Industries, HLM Venture Partners, and Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc. rounding out the list of participants.
AbleTo's focus is specifically to address employees suffering from comorbid medical and mental health conditions.
Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. suffer from behavioral (mental) health issues, which commonly occur simultaneously with chronic medical conditions. The likelihood of absenteeism, presenteeism, and reduced work productivity increases for individuals who fall under this category.
Depression alone is causing an annual $210 billion incremental cost burden on U.S. employers, which can equally be attributed to “avoidable” medical expenditures and lost work productivity. With those figures in mind, there is a tremendous opportunity to come up with innovative solutions to identify, engage, and treat these individuals in the workforce. Doing so will ensure patients receive needed care, while reducing the economic burden plaguing employers and health insurance providers.
How it works
AbleTo addresses this problem by utilizing phone and video chat to connect folks with behavioral health needs to its nationwide network of 300+ highly trained, clinically supervised therapists and behavioral coaches.
Each of these behavioral health care professionals deliver AbleTo’s evidence-based, time-bound, and structured CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) programs. These programs focus on the development of personal coping strategies to target solutions for current problems, as well as changing unhelpful patterns in cognitions.
As stated previously, patients can choose between having their treatment delivered via phone or AbleTo’s proprietary tech platform, which enables secure video chat and integrates care coordination platforms, as well as primary care physicians. The ability for individuals with behavioral health issues to interact with BH professionals, from the privacy of their own home is very important, because the comfort level of the patient can dictate just how effective their treatment can be. AbleTo’s platform simplifies patient scheduling, care delivery, clinical documentation, and care coordination.
AbleTo also works proactively to identify high medical cost patients with BH needs, via their clinical algorithm and screener, in order to deliver care to those individuals, incurring savings from the population who are most medically costly. The skills and tools acquired by patients, through these CBT programs serve to reduce the extra costs associated with underlying, untreated, or undiagnosed behavioral health issues, which drive up medical costs and limit work productivity.
AbleTo claims that stress, anxiety, and depression are significantly reduced through their treatment, and has some third-party studies to support this.
Fewer hospitalizations and hospital days saves health care dollars, as well as effectively working to return the patient to work sooner. Completion of AbleTo's program led to 48% fewer hospital days, 31 percent less hospital admissions, and $10,800 in reduced medical costs per patient, according to an American Journal of Managed Care report. AbleTo program graduates from January 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, who had elevated baseline depression, anxiety, and stress saw a reduction of 54 percent, 45 percent, and 43 percent in those categories, respectively.
An example of a separate medical condition being aided by these programs exists in a report from Telemedicine and e-Health in March 2016. They found that diabetic BH patients, by week eight, were seeing a reduction in AM blood glucose levels by 7 percent (12.3 ml/dL), as well as increasing their frequency of their weekly self-testing by 100%.
What does this mean for employers and health insurance providers?
A Work Productivity and Impairment Survey completed by employed patients, who graduated AbleTo programs from October 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016, showed that absenteeism, presenteeism, and activity impairment each decreased dramatically by 61 percent, 44 percent, and 44 percent. Folks were returning to work with much improved mental and physical wellness, thanks to their CBT programs from AbleTo, which had a direct impact on their level of productivity.
Aetna, a giant in the health insurance industry, found that there was a 50 percent decrease in the amount of disability claims, among those who participated in CBT programs, out of 751 members with Aetna disability coverage. Aside from that, fewer hospital admissions and shorter stays, better connections with health care professionals, and increased and sustained overall engagement from patients helps to curb medical costs, benefitting all involved in this process.
AbleTo is succeeding in helping a significant portion of the population, suffering from both behavioral health problems, as well as chronic medical conditions, and it appears measurable.
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