Mainul I Mondal, Founder and CEO of Ellipsis Health
April 7 is World Health Day. During this year’s observance, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for action to eliminate health inequities, as part of a year-long global campaign to bring people together to build a fairer, healthier world. The campaign highlights the WHO’s constitutional principle that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
In the U.S., there are significant disparities and inequities in both healthcare access and treatment. Unfortunately, a significant predictor of your health is where you live. The highest risk patients, who are often underrepresented minorities, are the least likely to receive care, testing and costly treatments and therapies. This includes mental health, which is greatly stigmatized in society. Behavioral health conditions often impact other chronic diseases but can be overlooked and go unaddressed for years.
Sadly, the average delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years in the U.S., according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). At the same time, the pool of board-certified psychiatrists is decreasing. Healthcare providers alone do not have the bandwidth to solve the problem at scale, and COVID-19 has only made the mental health epidemic worse. Now, in the second year of the pandemic, the Pew Research Center reports about a fifth of U.S. adults (21%) are experiencing high levels of psychological distress, including nearly three-in-ten (28%) among those who say the outbreak has changed their lives in “a major way.”
Now more than ever, it is important to recognize the interplay between physical health and emotional wellbeing. While mental and physical healthcare have come a long way towards working together, they still often run on somewhat parallel tracks. Although integrated primary and behavioral health clinics are becoming much more common, workflow integration is still a challenge. Ellipsis Health’s speech technology can be leveraged to provide the right care at the right time in the right place and can be used more widely to address the severe shortage of mental health providers in this country. Our remote clinical decision support tool enhances patient care and engagement, enabling providers to identify and manage mental illness symptoms at scale.
Digital tools like our app are providing pathways for integration, which makes screening, monitoring and alerting for depression and anxiety symptoms much easier. With just a few minutes of a patient’s recorded speech, providers receive a data point on how that person is doing – without requiring them to fill out a form or check in by email or phone. Digital health solutions aid in identifying patients in need, addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), supporting time-strapped providers and making data-driven care possible.
On World Health Day and beyond, it is time to acknowledge how mental health impacts our physical wellness. As a society, we must recognize and address inequities in mental health care access and prioritize identifying people facing mental illness sooner. This way we can move closer to achieving the WHO’s goal of building a fairer, healthier world for everyone.