Behavioral health is of increasing importance to our society. From the intense stress of a global pandemic to the impact of social unrest, today’s environment is amplifying the crisis as millions of Americans struggle with mental health and substance abuse conditions.

Even with so many people experiencing behavioral health disorders, only 43% of those adults are receiving treatment for these issues. However, Accenture research latent demand for virtual behavioral health services among US consumers suffering from these disorders. Use of virtual health channels could expand behavioral health treatment access to 53 million Americans.

Access is a significant barrier

Access to behavioral healthcare is especially challenging. Beyond the burden on individuals, the challenges of accessing and delivering behavioral health services have a ripple effect across healthcare. Payers, providers, employers, government and life sciences companies are all impacted differently.


Virtual health can shatter barriers

Virtual behavioral health services remove geographic, physical and other barriers to free-up clinician time and enable people to self-manage their situation more effectively. But Accenture research shows that over the past three years, consumers were minimally engaged in virtual channels for behavioral health services.

Then everything changed in 2020

The role of technology in healthcare’s response to COVID-19 is a tipping point for virtual behavioral health services. Virtual care models expanded rapidly out of necessity during lockdown, creating new expectations for effective and reliable healthcare at a distance. This shift likely contributed to the fact that while consumers had not been widely using these services, they are overwhelmingly willing to do so today.

Accenture recent research points to material latent demand in these channels. A full 81% of consumers diagnosed with or experiencing a behavioral health condition definitely or probably would engage in a virtual channel.

Virtual health is a value multiplier

In addition to the effect on people’s lives, better access to care is a potential breakthrough in terms of overall outcomes and medical spending. Virtual behavioral health services could materially expand access to treatment for more than 53 million people. This increased access can translate into reduced medical costs. Even a 1% increase in treatment for behavioral health disorders in this country could yield as much as $2.4 billion in medical savings annually in the United States.

From tipping point to transformation

As the industry looks to adopt virtual behavioral health services, there are three fundamentals to keeping them relevant and responsive to consumers’ needs.

1. Control the personal cost

Organizations sponsoring these solutions must determine how to lower costs to consumers.

2. Orbit around experience

The design of the programs and consumers’ experiences will make or break adoption no matter the demand.

3. Make all the connections

Coordination and integration of care with a whole-person approach is critical to success.

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Rich Birhanzel

Senior Managing Director – Consulting, Global Health Lead

Kristin Ficery

Senior Managing Director – Consulting, Health Lead, North America

Scott Brown

Managing Director – Consulting, Health Payer, North America


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