• Article
  • April 5, 2021

Using Technology to Screen, Monitor and Treat Pediatric Behavioral Health Patients

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The pandemic will have a lasting effect on kids’ behavioral health. Here’s how providers can ensure they are incorporating behavioral health care with medical care.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 54% of adults in the U.S. say the pandemic has had a negative influence on their mental health. The effect on children may be even more significant. A recent study published by the National Institutes of Health reports, “Post-traumatic anxiety and depression disorders are expected during and in the aftermath of the pandemic. Some groups, like children, are more susceptible to having long-term consequences to their mental health.” 

Bringing hope and help through technology

Pediatric behavioral health and medical care have traditionally been offered as independent service lines. Yet, some in the field are seeing it differently. “This pandemic has highlighted the tremendous stress children are under, as well as the need to incorporate behavioral health into our overall care process as quickly as possible,” says Karin Price, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Psychology at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.  

Early in the pandemic, Texas Children’s recognized that children being admitted for medical conditions were showing troubling rates of anxiety, depression and trauma. The hospital began working on a plan to implement a full-service line for pediatric anxiety. The goal was to be able to assess every child for behavioral health issues regardless of the reason for their visit. But the hospital wanted to do it in a way that did not overburden providers. The hospital found the answer in technology that empowers a measurement-based care (MBC) program. 

Owl Insights, an MBC cloud solution that enables providers to screen patients for behavioral health conditions, monitor their progress, and guide, seamlessly integrated with the Texas Children’s electronic medical record. 

The automated MBC program has significantly reduced the burden on providers while supporting collection, analysis, and documentation of patient-reported outcome measures. Texas Children’s now has the evidence-based insights needed to more effectively screen, triage and monitor patient progress—essential  elements to achieving quality and safety in behavioral health. 

Owl Insights can be integrated into any pediatric care environment, enabling clinicians to proactively identify potential behavioral health issues, regardless of the condition for which they are being seen or treated. 

The bottom line

As mass vaccinations are underway, experts predict we could begin to see some semblances of pre-pandemic normalcy by summer. But that doesn’t mean the mental health impact on children will wane along with the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), toxic stress from adverse childhood events (ACEs) can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood.

In other words, the need for improved behavior health care for children will continue to grow in the months and years ahead. Providers can act quickly by leverating technology to make long-needed, lasting improvements. 

This content was sponsored by Owl Insights