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This article was contributed by Susan Blue, CEO of Community Services Group.

Throughout my career in behavioral health, I’ve watched technology slowly trickle into the industry like a VIP guest at an exclusive party. For years, only the most luxurious recovery centers and private practices could afford the latest gadgets and software, while the rest of us provided quality treatment without the extra bells and whistles. 

But there are signs that the industry is changing; new technologies are becoming more accessible, allowing every practitioner to provide virtual care, collect patient data, and improve treatment outcomes. In light of these incredible advances, low-tech behavioral health is no longer the best practice—and it will soon become obsolete in favor of tech-first approaches.

As someone who’s seen firsthand the dramatic shifts in mental health care over the years, I can tell you that this current transition is just as significant as the advent of community-based care, the rise of pharmaceuticals, and the spread of managed care in the 1990s. We’re reaching a tipping point where technology isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Ligia Kornowska, managing director of the Polish Hospital Federation and a leader of the AI Coalition in Healthcare, put it best when she said, “not to make use of AI will soon be viewed as medical malpractice.” Her view may sound harsh, but it’s true. Organizations that fail to adopt and integrate new technologies into their care delivery are neglecting proven methods that can improve the accuracy of diagnoses, the safety of treatment models, and the effectiveness of their services.

The truth is that behavioral health organizations can’t keep up with demand if they don’t start using technology to their advantage. The current shortage of behavioral health professionals is only going to get worse, and it’s unethical to keep relying on human power alone to meet the growing need. But the good news is that we have a host of tools available to us, from artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence to virtual care platforms and data analytics.

Imagine a world where clinical staff can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time focused on patients. Imagine being able to diagnose and treat mental health conditions with greater accuracy and precision. Imagine being able to expand access to care and reduce wait times for people who need help. These are all within reach if we embrace technology.

It goes without saying that change isn’t easy, and there are valid concerns about using advanced technologies in healthcare. But as responsible leaders in behavioral health, we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to provide the best possible care to our patients. That means taking a hard look at how technology can help us achieve that goal.

We need to stop viewing technology as a scary unknown or a luxury we can’t afford. Instead, we ought to view it as an essential tool in our arsenal to help us tackle the biggest challenges facing the behavioral health industry today. It’s time to go tech-forward and give our patients the care they deserve.