The Future of Mental Health, Counseling, and Wellness Careers
Behavioral health jobs have been critical in helping people manage the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare workers have had to adapt where and how they work to meet patients’ needs throughout the turbulence. What will the healthcare landscape look like after the storm?
It’s clear that the demand for behavioral health specialists will continue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in the field is expected to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029 (compared to an average growth rate of 4% for all other occupations).
Analysts also expect that technology will continue to impact behavioral health jobs. Here’s a breakdown of the trends that will affect your career this year and into the future.
The State of Healthcare in 2021
The delivery of healthcare was forced to change over the past year, but some emerging trends are set to remain in situ beyond the pandemic.
Privacy Regulations Will Be Tightened for Remote Healthcare
Prior to the pandemic, the use of virtual healthcare was relatively low due to confidentiality concerns and behavioral hesitations. The pandemic forced the industry – and society – to accelerate acceptance and approval of remote healthcare. Now, according to a Sykes survey, 88% of patients say they’re happy to have a virtual visit, even after the pandemic ends.
During the pandemic, the federal government has allowed providers to use everyday technology such as Zoom or FaceTime to provide virtual visits. Expect these rules to tighten post-pandemic. Make sure the online platform you use is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
You’ll also need to assess whether remote visits continue to be the best option. Be mindful of whether your patient has a private space in their home where they can speak freely.
Insurers Will Attempt to Claw Back Telehealth Coverage
Insurance companies temporarily relaxed rules on telehealth coverage during the pandemic, broadening patient eligibility. It’s expected that this will revert to claw back coverage post-Covid. As they do, the healthcare system will be forced to navigate through a patchwork of policies.
According to the most recent tally by Foley & Lardner, 43 states have rules about reimbursement for commercially insured plans – but each state’s rules differ. Depending on where your patients live, their eligible coverage for telehealth services will depend upon:
- The type of visit
- The healthcare specialty
- Their individual health plans
If you’re self-employed, as many psychologists are, be aware that some insurance companies will require providers to use a specific telehealth platform, such as Teladoc Health.
Technology Will Expand Access to Personalized Healthcare
Technology is accelerating the cost and viability of delivering personalized healthcare, with the aim to improve patient outcomes. Much of this will continue to be driven through smartphone apps.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the small number of digital therapeutic apps that aim to provide psychological treatment. It doesn’t regulate the much larger number of apps that are focused on wellness.
Watch for consulting opportunities with app developers. Many will be looking to increase their credibility by developing apps in consultation with licensed health professionals, or by onboarding them to provide online therapy.
The use of virtual reality for therapeutic reasons will continue to expand. The intent is to treat patient-specific fears ranging from claustrophobia to social anxiety. The American Psychological Association offers one continuing education course on the subject. Expect a wider range of offerings to be available in the future.
The Model of Care Will Shift (Marginally) Towards Preventative Care
The U.S. model of healthcare has historically been focused on treating sick people. The pandemic highlighted that this is an expensive and inefficient model. Patients with pre-existing health conditions, such as obesity or diabetes, were more likely to be hospitalized and less likely to survive.
The pandemic could be the catalyst that finally shifts the nation toward preventative care. Even if the shift is marginal, its ripple effects will be significant. Expect changes to health curriculum as physicians learn to integrate preventative care into their practices. At the same time, community health capacity will need to increase to meet the demands of the system.
Find the Best Behavioral Health Jobs
The last year has taught us that change is unavoidable, but that people are adaptable. Could this be the right time for you to look for a new career opportunity?