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Medical Alley has long been recognized as a place where innovation happens. The life-changing work that is done here often happens because people with diverse backgrounds and ideas join together to solve critical problems, and the results are life-improving, deeply meaningful discoveries and advances.
To show the amazing work happening in Medical Alley and to, hopefully, accelerate the serendipity sometimes necessary for truly transformative ideas to take shape, the Medical Alley Association has launched a series of afternoon discussions called “Leading the Conversation” each focused around one of healthcare’s most daunting challenges.
The first of these conversations took place on Wednesday, July 25, and focused on new models for addressing mental health. Speakers from industry leaders like Medibio and Learn to Live gathered with care providers from Peoples Incorporated, Boynton Health at the University of Minnesota, and West End Consultation Group, as well as emerging tech companies like The Oxygen Plan and AiR Healthcare Solutions, to share their experience of how pervasive mental health issues are and what is working to help address the problem.
The statistics shared on the scope of the issue were sobering. Jack Cosentino, CEO and managing director of Medibio, opened the event with the key number: worldwide 450 million people per year will be diagnosed with a mental illness, and Dr. Russ Morfitt of Learn to Live told the crowd that 47 percent of the US population will, at some point in their lifetime, have a diagnosable mental health event, but less than a quarter of them will seek help. Dr. Marie Olseth of West End Consultation Group and an advisor to Medibio, cited the gap between mental health and physical health treatments, even as the distinction between the two is becoming more and more artificial, and AiR Healthcare’s CEO Jaclyn Wainwright noted that while much of current mental healthcare is focused on suicide prevention, “Why are we treating a chronic disease state as though it were acute?”
But the stark reality of the challenge couldn’t cast a pall on the proceedings, not when there is so much cause for hope. Dr. Gary Christenson of Boynton and Jill Wiedemann-West of People Incorporated shared stories of effective care, treating vulnerable populations proactively and helping them get care before their situations turned dire. Wainwright was joined by Adam Moen, founder of Marbles Analytics; Jeremy Schroetter, CTO of Medibio; and Eric Lucas, founder and CTO of The Oxygen Plan, each of whom presented their contribution to the fight for better mental health.
Advances in digital health have allowed treatment to reach patients where they are at, rather than forcing a patient to come to a doctor’s office, which is helping those in need get care more quickly and more often. Directly addressing the issue of reimbursement – which can be an issue for emerging companies – Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Brendan Shane conveyed a receptiveness from the payer side to look seriously at new models for mental health, noting that solving a problem like this was going to take everyone’s best efforts.
The quality of these discussions and the hopefulness that came out of them is exactly what MAA hoped for when this session was originally discussed. Attendees left knowing better what specific challenges mental health providers are addressing, but also better aware of what tools are available to help in the fight.
The next Leading the Conversation will take place on November 6 at The Hutton House and will focus on value-based healthcare.
Q & A with Brendan Shane, Director, Behavioral Health Operations with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota
Brendan Shane was a featured speaker at the Leading the Conversation: New Models for Addressing Mental Health and is the Director of Behavioral Health for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Brendan assumed this role in November 2016 and is responsible for the direction and management of all behavioral health services.
Prior to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Brendan was the Director of Clinical Care Services for Magellan of Virginia. While there, he participated in and led a number of behavioral health initiatives across the Commonwealth. Before that role, Brendan held a leadership position with Carver County where he participated in and led key initiatives within the agency, in partnership with the State of Minnesota, and with colleagues from around the world related to children’s mental health targeted case management, child protection/welfare and adoption. Before that role, Brendan spent 10 years at Cigna where he held roles of increasing responsibility. Prior to his managed care experience, he served as a therapeutic day treatment therapist and a crisis clinician in various Twin Cities metro area emergency departments.
Tell us a bit about your role at BCBS MN.
I am the Director of Behavioral Health and in that role I am responsible for ensuring that BCBS MN operationalizes a Behavioral Health strategy that provides comprehensive solutions for all of our members.
You trained in social work and have worked in mental/behavioral health. What motivates you to continue this work?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to work in the behavioral health field. I have a strong passion for understanding people and have seen first-hand how mental/behavioral health concerns impact lives for those who are experiencing it directly family members and care givers.
Mental and behavioral health issues are increasingly in the news, social media forums, increasingly out in the open. Are we making progress on removing the stigma associated?
I think we are definitely making progress in reducing stigma, however, we have a long way to go. All too often, awareness is raised when a crisis or tragedy occurs but after a short time the attention fades. We need to be able to talk about behavioral health issues in our everyday lives because it is in those moments that change and healing occur.
Are there areas we are sliding backwards?
Healthcare is a rapidly changing industry, and has always been. There are times where you feel like you are moving forward and times where you are moving backwards. There’s no question that there is a lot more work to be done in behavioral health in Minnesota, but the more we can work together, the better outcomes we can provide.
This event is bringing together people from care providers, insurance companies, and technology firms, all with common cause of improved care. What do you hope to learn from your peers?
Through events such as this, we are able to learn about the critical needs in each facet of an individual’s health journey. All of us have a different lens through which we see the member’s story and I’m hoping to learn more about how we can collectively impact the continuum of care from all angles.
How do you see BCBS MN leading the conversation towards better care?
Blue Cross has breadth and depth in data that no one else in Minnesota has. That allows us to see the bigger picture, track trends, and gain insights. We can —and do— pull together different groups to derive consensus and push issues forward. In the end, we all want the same thing: people getting the care they need, when they need it, for a fair price, to get to the best patient outcomes. When we keep that in mind, we can all work together to make that happen.
Leading the Conversation: Value-Based Care
Join us for the next event in the series, Leading the Conversation: Value-Based Care in November along with leaders from healthcare delivery, payment, and technology to discuss and debate one of the most critical issues to improving the United State’s health care system: value based care.
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