Kaiser Permanente offers members free access to Livongo's mental health app

Kaiser Permanente is offering its members free access to Livongo's mental health app myStrength.

The partnership with Livongo, known for its digital diabetes management solution, will add the myStrength app to the health systems'  portfolio of self-care tips and tools and offers members personalized support across their behavioral health needs.

After a yearlong evaluation process, Kaiser Permanente mental health professionals and members evaluated and chose Livongo’s myStrength based on many factors, including a high-quality member experience, clinical effectiveness and interactive programming, both organizations said.

"Everyone can benefit from caring for their emotional well-being, particularly in times of increased stress and anxiety, and myStrength can make it easier to do that," said Don Mordecai, M.D., psychiatrist and national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente.

MyStrength is the behavioral health solution within Livongo's integrated chronic condition management platform and is designed to improve users' sleep and mood.

RELATED: As COVID-19 isolates patients, telehealth becomes lifeline for behavioral health

The app now has features related to the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation as more people are under stay-at-home orders. Features include coronavirus-specific modules to manage heightened stress, tips for parenting during challenging times and ideas to manage social isolation, according to Livongo.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is causing heightened anxiety and stress for all of us in ways our society has never experienced. We find ourselves grappling with a potent mix of worries and daily stresses, whether it’s fear of falling sick, the immediate or potential risk of losing a job, juggling work and childcare in cramped quarters, or general uncertainty about the future," Julia Hoffman, vice president of behavioral health strategy at Livongo, wrote in a blog post.

Required to stay home and shelter in place, people are finding themselves cut off from vital social support networks and day-to-day coping mechanisms, Hoffman said.

MyStrength app (Livongo)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clinically based digital self-care can transform the future of behavioral health, she noted.

Even before the recent crisis, demand for behavioral and mental health services was rapidly outstripping the availability of licensed professionals. With 55% of U.S. counties lacking a single behavioral health specialist, 60% of Americans who need behavioral and mental health support are currently unable to access it, according to Hoffman.

Digital solutions like myStrength help close this gap, she said.

RELATED: Boosted by diabetes management, Livongo's revenue jumps to $170M

Primary care physicians also are shouldering an outsize portion of mental health care, and digital solutions can extend and supplement a physician's care. Mental health specialists also can use myStrength to assign "between-session homework, with in-app nudges and reminders, to help people stay on track and make progress on self-care goals," Hoffman said.

The healthcare industry will see significant downstream effects on mental and behavioral health due to COVID-19.

"We will likely see a spike in anxiety, depression, addiction and other conditions as people cope with grief, widespread job loss, and the existential trauma of feeling unsafe and vulnerable in the post-COVID-19 world. This will place unprecedented demands on our nation’s already strained behavioral health capacity," Hoffman said.

Digital health tools can help bridge the gap and scale the industry's response, she noted.