How Technology Can Unlock Access to Mental Health Care

Jul 8, 2019

By Curtis Howell

Mental health issues are incredibly common. Unfortunately, so are the many barriers to accessing the quality care needed to effectively treat these conditions. When we set out to build the Lyra platform, we wanted to make the process of finding and choosing mental health care easier. And not just any care, but care that’s effective, personalized, and human.

The wide availability of data-driven, on-demand technologies today means you can call a ride, order groceries, and get personalized music recommendations in just a few clicks. Why not expect the same modern experience when seeking care for your mental health? At Lyra, we think you should.

Today, Lyra offers mental health services to more than 600,000 members with thousands of therapists and coaches nationwide to support them in-person and virtually. And that’s just scratching the surface. There are over 44 million American adults living with a mental health condition and about one in five don’t receive the care they need due to stigma and other obstacles. Technology will be a critical component in changing that reality and helping more people receive the care they need.

The Lyra Platform

At first glance, Lyra’s online platform simply connects patients and mental health care providers. Someone who needs support for their mental and emotional health can sign up, answer a few questions about what they’re experiencing, and receive personalized recommendations for high-quality providers nearby. Meanwhile, carefully vetted and selected Lyra therapists and mental health coaches receive steady referrals to clients whose needs match their expertise.

Behind the scenes, clinical insights and machine learning powers the platform, making recommendations based on patient symptoms, severity, preferences, location, and gender identity, combined with data on effective treatments for their specific needs and available providers near them. This real-time matching is akin to what Uber and Lyft do to connect riders and drivers, but with the added complexity of mental health conditions and treatments.

Getting Started: Make it Easy or Else

Research shows that stigma surrounding mental illness and the many friction points inherent to the U.S. health care system remain major barriers to accessing mental health care. Lyra’s anonymous and convenient online sign-up experience can help address both obstacles to ensure more people get the help they need. The online platform collects data from members about their symptoms, severity, and preferences and intelligently matches them to the right treatment options — from one-on-one work with a mental health coach or therapist to self-care apps and digital lessons.

Looking at extensive user research (and common sense), we know that everyone’s time is valuable – so ensuring that a provider is nearby and quickly available for new clients is critical to delivering a positive member experience. Lyra’s sophisticated algorithms enable real-time matching of patients and providers, evaluating availability and location so we only recommend providers who are close by and have appointments available within as little as two days. Book online, call or email, and you’ve taken a huge first step toward improving your mental health, all in just a few minutes.

A number of respondents to a recent Lyra member survey echoed the importance of a user-friendly platform in accessing care.

“Extreme ease of use has made all the difference in the world for whether we made it all the way through to seeing a therapist,” one member wrote. “When it comes to mental health, even really tiny obstacles can be enough to make us give up on seeking care.”

Another member noted, “It’s been so easy and intuitive thus far. I’m much more inclined to use my mental health benefits as a result.”

Personalized Care Navigation and Guidance

A high-quality network of available providers is an important foundation, but it’s still not enough to ensure optimal clinical outcomes. Little-known fact: there are hundreds of therapies practiced today. That’s far more than the singular brand of talk therapy popularized by movies and television (The Sopranos, Analyze This!, and Monk are just a few examples). Lyra only works with care providers who practice evidence-based therapies (the 20 percent of therapies that are proven to work).

Additionally, our data-driven technology helps members navigate the complexities of mental health care and intelligently matches them with the right options. At Lyra, we recognize that different evidence-based treatments are designed for different problem areas. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be a good fit for relieving anxiety and depression symptoms, while Motivational Interviewing (MI) is designed to help people with substance use disorders. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach or leaving members to navigate the complexity alone will result in subpar care, or no care at all.

App-based Messaging, Digital Exercises and Self-Care Tools

Does your company’s employee assistance program, or EAP, offer self-guided tools, resources, and one-to-one messaging with providers between therapy sessions? Some EAPs provide online content, but most isn’t particularly engaging, let alone evidence-based. Quality self-care options like those Lyra provides help enhance skill development between sessions with a care provider and are also ideal for people who want to tap into support anytime, anywhere.

Smarter, Data-driven Care with Measurable Outcomes

Lyra’s tech-enabled platform allows for more opportunities to collect data from each person seeking care. We can then leverage that information to gain insights that help improve our entire system in ways big and small. These insights help us gauge everything from provider quality and treatment effectiveness to appointment time preferences and the most common issues people seek help for.

With such invaluable information at our fingertips, Lyra can continually optimize our system to ensure that members receive effective care that helps them live their best lives.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about how Lyra’s enhanced EAP enables access to personalized, top-tier mental health care, download our white paper on evaluating quality in mental health care or get in touch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Curtis Howell is a senior product manager at Lyra. He works on technology designed for clients receiving mental health care from a Lyra provider.