Both practices and patients have noticed the surge in virtual care options. Since 2020, behavioral health encounters have comprised a third of all telehealth appointments, compared to 8 percent of virtual visits to primary care providers and 3 percent of appointments with other medical specialists. These figures show the increasing interest in online mental healthcare, seemingly indicating a growing trend continuing during the upcoming years.
Giving patients and providers more flexibility, telehealth can eliminate geographic and transportation obstacles, and decrease appointment no-shows. Ultimately, it results in better continuity of treatment.
A significant advantage of behavioral telehealth is the inclusion of automated electronic medication administration records (eMAR), in tandem with administration for therapy telehealth encounters, which completes the virtual practice operations loop. Telemedicine platforms also automate reimbursement billing workflows, lightening the load on a practice’s administrative staff.
Telemedicine Rooted in Convenience, Necessity
While telemedicine has been available in various applications for over a decade, pandemic conditions successfully expanded its use. Now mental health practices of all sizes and specialties are using it, due to both patient demands, and increased operations and billing efficiencies.
Once the remote access necessity move was made, this treatment choice now coexists with practices opening their doors again and encouraging a transition to on-location encounters for in-person patient care. Interestingly, the telehealth choice continues to be a popular one. This seems to have the makings of a sustainable expansion trend. Practitioners found ways to successfully treat patients remotely, with patients appreciating the remote convenience.
Getting a Practice Started with Telebehavioral Health
When a practice is exploring how to integrate remote services, these considerations will help with crucial decisions:
Survey the community the practice serves – What services do patients need to treat the common behavioral health challenges in the area. Which telehealth approach best fits the practitioner’s skills? What behavioral health models work well with telehealth within the practice’s focus, including individual therapy, group therapy, or substance use disorder treatment (a combination)?
Decide which telebehavioral services to provide – Identify any service gaps to address the problems the practice can solve. Keep in mind the limits of virtual encounters versus treatments requiring on-location access.
Choose a system befitting the practice and its patients –Review the practice’s budget to understand the financial resources needed for a turnkey, all-encompassing system. A cloud-based platform allowing for monthly subscription payment provides a low-maintenance environment configurable to the organization’s workflow and is cash flow-friendly.
Research telehealth reimbursement among insurance companies – Mandates and company policies are expanding nearly as fast as telehealth itself. Make sure that the service offerings planned are reimbursable and that the reimbursement rates align with P&L goals.
The Future of Mental Health Telemedicine
This service is now part of both culture and expectation. What instances are ideal for remote access care, compared to in-person? Here are a few examples of each:
Good candidates for telehealth:
- Follow-up visits for current patients receiving continued, sound therapy and/or medication.
- People whose physical cues can be recognized through their mode of video transmission or aren’t necessary for their treatment (audio-only encounters).
- Those who wouldn’t otherwise access treatment; are uncomfortable in office settings, preferring familiar surroundings.
- When geography and physical condition makes in-person care difficult (including multiple family members in separate locations and schedules of availability).
Favor clinic interactions:
- New patients are being diagnosed.
- Conditions and subjects where therapeutic silence recognition enhances treatment.
- People who benefit from destination settings, away from distractions.
- Those who struggle with technology and telecommunication devise use or aren’t comfortable with live, interpersonal virtual communications.
A combination of the two is a popular option for a practice to provide.
If you’re yet to utilize telemedicine, or would benefit from a more effecti
Also, see Developing a Telebehavioral Health Strategy to optimize your program’s operations in tandem with InSync electronic health records (EHR).