The use of tele-mental health has grown rapidly, especially in connection with the pandemic’s impact. Our understanding of the circumstances in which tele-mental health is most effective has not, however, been able to keep pace with the growth in utilization by a wider range of patients and providers. This project, funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), was designed to obtain multi-stakeholder perspectives on the research needed to enhance the beneficial impact of tele-mental health for Medicaid enrollees.
The focus of our project was on tele-mental health for Medicaid enrollees because Medicaid is the largest payer for mental health and substance use disorder services. Moreover, the population covered by Medicaid includes a large portion of people of color, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty who have experienced long-standing health disparities and disproportionate negative mental health challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This work featured a series of focus groups and a day-long conference involving patients (Medicaid enrollees with a lived experience of mental health or substance use disorder), providers (clinicians), and payers (Medicaid state officials and representatives of Medicaid managed care health plans). Participants exchanged perspectives on tele-mental health, reviewed our summary of existing research through the lens of
their own experiences, and generated consensus-based recommendations for future patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) and comparative-effectiveness research (CER) on tele-mental health.