athenahealth launched its pediatric mental health study to determine if pediatrician feedback about increased clinical and operational practice complexity was growing in line with, and perhaps related to, the number of children being treated with behavioral health problems. To shed light on this trend, athenaResearch analyzed claims data from 2.8 million visits, by children between 6 to 17 years of age, to 431 pediatricians who have been part of the athenahealth network from July 2009 through June 2013. This study yielded the following observations:
- In the year ending June 30, 2013, 10.5 percent of all visits contained a mental health diagnosis.
- The rate of mental health diagnoses has increased 29 percent over the last four years.
- The five most common mental health diagnostic categories are: Attention Deficit Hypertension Disorder (ADHD), which accounted for more than half of all diagnoses, followed by anxiety, autism, depression, and eating disorders.
- The number of ADHD diagnoses increased by almost 8 percent each year, while other, less common diagnoses increased at much higher rates. As an example, eating disorder diagnoses increased 30.5 percent per year, more than doubling from 2009 to 2013.
"Today's report captures trends in pediatric mental health diagnoses across a national sample of pediatricians through midyear of 2013," said Josh Gray, Vice President of athenaResearch at athenahealth, Inc. "We're seeing growth in ADHD beginning to moderate, after years of steep increases, with very high and concerning growth rates for anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Mental health diagnoses are now running about a third higher for children with Medicaid insurance compared with commercial coverage. As clinicians and researchers continue to seek a deeper understanding of mental illness among children, we're happy to contribute timely data to the national dialogue."