Clarify Health, a cloud analytics and value-based payments platform company, published new research on pediatric mental health in a brief titled, “The Kids Are Not Alright: Pediatric Mental Health Care Utilization from 2016 – 2021.” The research was conducted by the Clarify Health Institute, which is led by Clarify’s Chief Analytics and Privacy Officer, Niall Brennan, and has a mission of delivering real-world insight into the quality and efficiency of US health care.
The Institute initiated this research following reporting by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that signaled concerning trends in the mental health of American children. The study leveraged an observational, national sample of insurance claims from more than 20 million children aged 1-19 years old annually and observed several important trends in the mental health care of America’s youth in the last six years. Notably, the utilization of acute care services for mental health conditions has increased dramatically, further spiking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The use of data and insights to shed light on pressing health care system issues is fundamental to our work at Clarify,” said Brennan. “This research shines a light on the toll that the pandemic and other stressors have taken on our children’s mental health over the last five years—and as a father, the health and wellbeing of America’s youth could not be more top of mind for me. Our hope is that this analysis helps spark a wider conversation around the need to improve access, utilization and quality of pediatric behavioral health services.”
Some of the primary findings of this brief include:
Mental health services utilization for pediatric patients increased significantly between 2016 -2021
- Inpatient admissions increased 61% during this period (from 30 visits annually per 1,000 patients to 48 visits annually)
- Emergency room visits increased 20% (from 55 visits annually per 1,000 patients to 66 visits annually)
- In contrast, in-person office and outpatient mental health services utilization increased only 5% during this period, with this slower growth rate caused in part by significant declines during the first year of the pandemic
Mental health services utilization increased most rapidly among children aged 12-15
- The largest increases in inpatient utilization were among adolescents aged 12-15. Mental health inpatient admissions increased 7% for boys aged 1-11 years old compared to 64% among girls and 68% among boys aged 12-15 years old
- Utilization levels for girls aged 12-15 were over 2.5 times higher than admission rates for boys in the same age group in 2021
Insurance coverage creates disparities
- Inpatient hospital admissions among children with mental health conditions increased by 103% among commercially insured and 40% among Medicaid populations
- Emergency department (ED) visits among children with mental health conditions declined by 10% among the commercially insured and increased by 20% in the Medicaid population
- ED utilization rates in 2021 were nearly twice as high in the Medicaid population compared to children with commercial insurance
“The Clarify Health Institute is driving greater transparency across the industry,” said Jean Drouin, MD, CEO and Co-Founder, Clarify Health. “The trends illuminated in this report reinforce health care leaders’ responsibility to address children’s mental health, especially when considering that half of all mental health conditions onset during adolescence and carry into adulthood. With a growing consensus that mental, behavioral and physical health intersect, this research report aims to spark a conversation about the overall wellbeing of America’s next generation.”
To access the full report, visit https://clarifyhealth.com/institute/.