For the more than 7 million individuals in the U.S. (Center for Inclusion) living with an intellectual or developmental disability disorder (IDD), the ability to live a productive and fulfilling life can hinge on access to quality healthcare. Behavioral health is of increasing importance as new research highlights that 30-35% of individuals with IDD will also experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime (National Association for the Dually Diagnosed).
Telehealth can help IDD patients overcome the many challenges to accessing care. It can also help providers improve outcomes. In fact, with temporary waivers on many types of virtual care for IDD patients during the public health emergency (PHE), virtual care has proven highly successful. Now, IDD patients, caregivers, and providers are working to ensure permanent access to virtual care options so that they can build on the successes achieved to date.
Understanding the unique challenges of IDD care
IDD covers a wide range of diagnoses resulting from mental and/or physical impairments, many of which can last a lifetime. IDD can require extensive, ongoing support from a diverse team of caregivers and professionals. Accessing care can be difficult, with a daunting list of challenges that includes:
- Complex and co-occurring medical and mental health issues
- Lack of adequate medical insurance
- Inconsistent access to healthcare information
- Sensory issues and sensitivity to environmental changes
- Cognitive and verbal limitations that make it difficult for patients to communicate effectively
In the past, many individuals with IDD lived in institutional settings, and providers could deliver many of these programs and services on site. Today, over 75% of individuals with IDD live in the community (Center for Inclusion), whether with family, roommates, or on their own. For these individuals, coordinating appointments and arranging accessible transportation to and from in-person services adds yet another level of challenge.
To complicate matters further, the persistent shortage of providers with specialized training and skills to serve the IDD population can limit the services available in certain geographic areas. In these cases, patients and their caregivers must have accessible transportation and travel greater distances to facilities.
It’s not surprising that IDD patients can find the entire care experience distressing and even traumatic.
How reimbursement practices impact IDD telehealth options
Medicaid and telehealth rules enacted by individual states play significant roles in the delivery of IDD care. Approximately 60% of individuals with IDD rely on Medicaid for their health insurance coverage, including Medicaid managed care. (The ARC) Whether individuals live in a residential setting or in the community, many require a wide range of services, often from a variety of different providers.
For IDD, Medicaid covers long-term services and supports (LTSS) or through home- and community-based services (HCBS) waivers, covering a plethora of programs and settings, including:
- Vocational and employment services
- In-home and residential supports
- Family supports
- Medical equipment and assistive technology
- Clinical and therapeutic services
According to a recent study of state reimbursement policies for IDD services, just 5% of HCBS IDD services delivered via telehealth were covered prior to the pandemic. (Council of Quality and Leadership) During the PHE, that increased to 36%.
The results of this increased use of telehealth have been impressive. A report from the ANCOR Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy found that telehealth can play an integral role in transforming the healthcare system to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers. (Center for Inclusion)
Going forward, stakeholders are working to refine reimbursement rules, balancing concerns about informed choice, outcomes, and patient privacy with convenient, safe access to care and each patient’s rights to accommodations.
How virtual care improves IDD care outcomes
For providers of behavioral health for IDD patients, virtual care solutions can address many care delivery challenges. Implementing an electronic health record (EHR) is a good first step in building a system to support IDD patients with vital access to care. Adding telehealth solutions and a patient portal that integrates with your EHR can greatly enhance the care experience for patients and their caregivers while also improving outcomes:
- Patients can receive care from the comfort of a familiar environment, without needing to arrange accessible transportation to and from a clinic. This saves both time and money, especially for those living in underserved communities where clinics may be some distance away. It also reduces the stress of travel and in-person visits for patients who are sensitive to environmental changes.
- Caregivers can access healthcare information, help coordinate care, and assist patients in accessing digital services as needed.
- A comprehensive patient portal ensures that individuals with IDD and their caregivers can access all their healthcare information from one place, making full person care possible. It also enables IDD to receive care in the format that best suits their unique needs, whether that’s through video with closed captioning and transcription or instant message with their provider.
- When multiple providers in the same network work together, patients and their caretakers can easily share healthcare information. Information can be accessed within the patient portal, making it easier for providers to understand the patient’s history and needs. There’s no need for patients to repeat their story to multiple people or wait to receive care.
Delivering better experiences and outcomes for IDD care with an integrated EHR and patient portal
For behavioral health companies serving IDD patients, purpose-built and integrated patient portal and EHR platforms enable the delivery of safe, convenient, and accessible virtual care services, while making them simple to manage and scale across state lines.
- Integrate your EHR and patient portal, including those of partner organizations, to deliver a seamless spectrum of care to IDD patients.
- Make it easy for staff and caregivers to book and manage appointments and help patients with forms.
- Provide patients with a user-friendly interface, including closed captioning and transcription services on video calls, and multiple communication modes for patients, including instant messages.
- Streamline insurance verification, billing, and payment processes.
- Extend services to include subscription programs that offer patients greater value and choice, while helping your organization grow services and business.
Virtual Care solutions designed for behavioral health give your organization and providers the foundation needed to expand care options for IDD patients and elevate their experience across the continuum of care. To learn more about how an EHR platform and patient portal can help you serve IDD patients, book a demo at https://www.qualifacts.com/request-a-demo/.