Receiving access to mental healthcare is many times challenging due to economical, cultural, and geographical barriers. State and local level policies greatly affect who is, and who isn't, able receive adequate mental health services. 1 out of 5 adults report that they are unable to get the care that they need, with 57.2% of adults who have a mental illness not receiving treatment.
In some demographic groups, these statistics are even more staggering. In 2011, it was seen by the Agency for Healthcare and Equality that only 54.3% of African American adults who suffered from a major depressive episode received treatment while 73.1% of Caucasian adults received treatment.
The 2016 State of Mental Health in America - Access to Care Survey recently also demonstrated how mental health is related to a variety of other important outcomes. They ranked all 50 states by how much access to mental health care existed and was available to residents. Their results showed correlations on a number of different fronts.
With many pressures facing states and countless budget barriers, some digital health companies are look for solutions to help solve this gap in care. One of those companies is Quartet.
Founded in 2014, Quartet is a cloud based platform that "connects primary care and mental health providers to improve outcomes for patients with chronic conditions". Their goal of this integration is to help patients from falling through the cracks and not receiving proper treatment. Through the platform, primary and mental health providers can stay connected with each other regarding patient treatment and ensure continuity of care. The platform also enables patients to receive referrals within their communities for mental health providers who can help them through goal-driven therapy programs.
We spoke with Quartet's Founder and CEO, Arun Gupta, further about the goals of Quartet and the role he sees digital health playing in remedying structural issues of mental health care access.
Junto Health (JH): Where did the inspiration for founding Quartet come from?
Arun Gupta (AG): Quartet has been a huge passion project from the beginning. Following a history of team members building healthcare and tech companies, we saw the clear gap between physical and mental healthcare, as well as a lack of resources and access. Although many chronic physical conditions like cancer or heart disease have dedicated resources and receive national attention, we’re behind on how we treat mental health. We had a big problem to tackle and an opportunity to build a business by better integrating mental health into primary care.
We know that about 1 in 5 Americans are living with mental health conditions – that’s our friends, families and people in our workplaces. This is also a group of people that’s consuming about half of total healthcare costs. With so much dialogue on physical health conditions, mental health is still an area where we need to do better. Through better integration of mental health into primary care we can improve patient outcomes and ultimately lower health system costs.
We’re also fortunate to have a team comprised of leading engineers, data scientists and clinicians all dedicated to fixing this problem. Our team includes many people with close connections to mental health conditions that have seen friends and loved ones struggle with these issues.
JH: If you were asked to summarize Quartet in three words what would they be and why?
AG: Mind. Body. Integration.
JH: What are some of the challenges you have faced when it came to developing an initiative focused on behavioral health? How have you found behavioral health concerns to differ from other health issues?
AG: Most of our challenges are bureaucratic in nature as we look to change healthcare in new ways. Unfortunately, even with sensible ideas like connecting mental and physical health, there is so much that dies on the vine in healthcare systems. We do a lot of work to illustrate how Quartet works so that insurers and health systems are ready to embrace collaborative methods to treat patients holistically. We’ve also had incredible growth in the last year and want to maintain a special culture at Quartet.
Navigating mental health differs from physical health due to stigma and also as the signs and symptoms are not always evident. As a result, there are many people living with underlying mental health conditions that may only be discovered when these issues begin to compromise physical health. This often leads to health system utilization that could be avoided, such as trips to the ER.
Our platform is driven by advanced data science based on millions of patient experiences and helps physicians to identify patients with mental health conditions and quickly connect them to care. Mental health drives total health, so addressing underlying mental health conditions and facilitating collaboration between physicians and mental health specialists helps to provide the best and most immediate treatment and resources.
JH: How does your platform leverage data to connect together patients and mental health providers? What does the process entail?
AG: We’re looking to break down silos through multi-year patient data that gives us a better lifetime picture of patient journeys and allows physicians and mental health providers to make the best recommendations. Through a collaborative care process, we’re able to assess risk for mental health conditions as well as matching patients to the care that will work best for them.
If you think about it, we have so many consumer-facing apps that leverage data, whether finding nearby restaurants, curating music, dating, etc. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to offer the same convenience for something as important as our health. Our platform powers collaboration between physicians and mental health specialists through data algorithms and machine learning that continuously react to changes in patient care and makes recommendations accordingly. Once a mental health condition is identified and a patient is moved to care, Quartet tracks progress and flags opportunities to makes adjustments as needed.
JH: With current healthcare restructuring looming on the horizon, do you see platforms such as Quartet having the potential to help alleviate some structural cost issues? If so, how?
AG: Absolutely. Our concern right now is seeing essential health benefits roll back, recreating a separate, but unequal benefit structure that has stigmatized mental health for decades until the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. In the midst of new administration unknowns and major mental health issues nationally, enterprise solutions like Quartet are expanding. We are providing access to resources as part of a larger paradigm of health system needs.
As chronic physical illnesses continue to pose a challenge to health systems, there is a significant cost-savings opportunity through integrated mental health. Costs may include acute inpatient admissions, ER visits and prescriptions – part of an estimated $48.3 billion that could be cut from U.S. healthcare annually by integrating physical and mental health.
Digital health platforms can provide simplicity, fulfilling workflow and resource needs for both physicians and patients. Major health systems and insurers are recognizing the need to invest in value-based care that benefits all involved in a patient’s care, including the patient.
JH: From the large amount of data collected by the platform, have you seen any red flags regarding how mental health issues are treated, or rather not treated, in the United States?
AG: The way we look at this is more like, how can we use data to the best of our ability. The red flags that we’ve seen for years is how fractured our health system can be, knowing that physicians and mental health specialists can make better recommendations when they have more information about a patient and are able to collaborate on care. Right now, if we change jobs, switch insurers, move state to state – we may end up in the care of a physician that doesn’t have a full picture of our past treatment. That’s a problem.
Building a collaborative care model in-office is often costly and complicated to implement. By creating a virtual collaborative environment where primary care physicians and mental health specialists can conduct shared care planning along the patient journey, we’re fostering an innovative approach to quickly get people the care they need.
JH: What are your next 3 goals at Quartet?
AG: We expect to expand into 8-10 additional markets within the next 12 months and are excited for continued national growth. We also look forward to new progress data and increased patient assessments for faster resolution of health concerns.
To follow Quartet for their latest updates and progress you can find them on Twitter (@quartethealth).
Do you have an opinion on how mental health should be better dealt with in the United States? Have ideas for other digital health integrations in the mental health landscape? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or opinions.