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Digital health technology

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy called for public input on role digital technologies play in community health

APA responds to call for examples of models of technology spotlighting nexus of technology and psychology to close gaps in access to care.

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American Psychological Association. (2022, April 14). White House Office of Science and Technology Policy called for public input on role digital technologies play in community health.

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On February 28 and March 31, APA Services responded to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s call for input on digital technologies and how technology can enhance and transform health care infrastructure to better support communities (February 28 response [PDF, 127KB] and March 31 response [PDF, 278KB]). APA’s responses recognize that digital technology alters how we live, work, and play. The association’s responses also emphasize that this innovative technology will have an increasing influence on health and the health care infrastructure.

APA also recognized the flexibility provided by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in allowing the use of telehealth by mental and behavioral health providers to provide continuity of care during the covid-19 pandemic. The association recommended that “CMS should continue its efforts to close gaps in access to mental and behavioral health services by continuing to allow patients from underserved communities—such as rural areas and communities of color—to access these services, often for the first time.” The association also stressed that there continue to be barriers to mental health care delivery despite the rapid growth of mental health apps.

APA Services highlighted the need for more research to determine the effectiveness and safety of these products. Accordingly, the association called for “the development and implementation of an evaluation framework” to inform the use of these innovative treatment interventions. In addition, the association pointed to the need for oversight by a regulatory body and cited the recently proposed framework created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The association also called for making mobile mental health treatment products and services reimbursable to support their integration into the health care landscape.

Digital health technologies showing promise

On March 31, APA Services followed up its initial comments with three specific examples of models provided by APA members that have successfully impacted community health. 

  • Remote access to court clinic: To mitigate covid-19, remote work allows the court clinic easier access to mental health providers to respond in real-time to mental health emergencies in court and continue to serve clients and protect evaluators. However, associated barriers to the use of technology are limited access to technology, interagency disagreement, and limited data at the intersection of mental health and the law. The government can help facilitate more rapid access to mental health providers by providing needed funding for infrastructure, including free, low cost, or subsidized broadband and basis technology education at the community level.
  • Using interactive virtual presence technology to help parents install car seats: Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are studying the use of interactive virtual presence technology to help parents install car seats properly. The most prominent challenge to its widespread use is the lack of broadband, especially in rural areas. The program is valuable for rural populations, language minorities, low-income communities, and communities of color.
  • Digital mental health interventions: The use of digital mental health products, delivered either by a trained layperson or licensed clinician, is another example of technology that can be used to improve community health. Currently, digital mental health interventions are not widely reimbursable. However, access can be improved through broader acceptance. Additionally, establishment of a national infrastructure for these services is needed, including the development of reimbursement pathways.

For more information, contact Angela L. Sharpe, MG.