Challenges of Patient Access to Behavioral Health Providers
One of the biggest problems facing the healthcare community now is a lack of encounter access for patients. Someone in a metropolitan area or nearby suburb may have hundreds of options to choose from when it comes to therapists, physicians, hospitals, and clinics. Though many behavioral health providers and facilities are at over capacity. Rural patients often have significantly fewer options, particularly for physical and mental health specialists. The logistics for treatment is challenging, and so is scheduling appointments, with fewer healthcare professionals available within a reasonable driving distance, leading to limited access.
Then there’s the convenience factor. For those seeking therapy who have inflexible work or family care schedules, getting to an in-person encounter becomes increasingly difficult. This often increases the number of no-shows and decreases billable hours a practice can monetize.
What Encompasses Mental Health Telehealth?
Throughout the pandemic, mental health conditions have been the most common telehealth diagnosis nationally.
Through internet-connected devices, telehealth benefits mental health practitioners by providing them with client encounters through video or audio transmission. In addition, to live encounters, clinicians can exchange secure messaging and email with patients, and send/receive encrypted files.
A patient’s healthcare providers can remotely monitor their vitals from any location, greatly benefiting people with mobility difficulties.
Even with remote’s convenience, In-person office visits are either necessary or preferred in some cases. Though when virtual is a viable option, the benefits include:
- Limited physical contact, reducing exposure to COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses.
- Health care provision wherever practitioners and patients are located.
- Greater access to specialists located in multiple geographic locations.
- Reduced travel, and time off from work, and accommodated childcare needs.
- Less wait time prior to an encounter.
Electronic Health Record (EHR) software automates the management of remote patient information charting, treatment, medication, and reimbursement billing. Built for both remote and in-person behavioral health encounters, EHR systems have integrated telemedicine capabilities. This functionality makes it easier to manage practice operations for both providers and support staff.
See InSync Healthcare Solution’s EHR-integrated behavioral telehealth system here.
Telemedicine’s Approach to Psychological Therapy Access
Additional telemedicine capabilities are expanding offsite access to patients and their mental and physical health information in real-time, including:
- Live (synchronous) videoconferencing: a two-way audiovisual link between a patient and a care provider; a telehealth visit.
- Store-and-forward (asynchronous) videoconferencing: transmission of recorded health history to a health practitioner—typically a specialist.
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM): the use of connected electronic tools to record personal health and medical data in one location for review by a provider in another location, usually at a different time.
- Mobile health (mHealth): healthcare and public health information provided through mobile devices. The information may include general educational information, targeted texts, and notifications about disease outbreaks.
- Chronic care management interventions: Provides patients with integrated care during their primary care visits. The TeleTEAM Care for Diabetes Program, for instance, offers the services of behavioral therapists, clinical pharmacists, and medical diabetologists.
- Emergency care: Patients have access to specialists in real-time, where they can supply evaluations to local providers for emergency care.
- Home monitoring: These services allow patients to remain in their homes while managing their treatments—at least between medical visits.
- Intensive care units (ICU): For critically ill patients, ICUs powered by telemedicine provide round-the-clock monitoring by specialists and critical care nurses, while the patient can remain in the comfort of their own home.
- Long-term care: These services bring specialized healthcare to elderly populations who live in long-term care facilities that are inaccessible due to their rural location.
All these services provide access and higher levels of care to patients who may not have been able to receive treatment without the advancement of telemedicine. This access is an aspect providers should consider adding to their practice’s services portfolio. Over 74 percent of patients say that they prefer telehealth services over in-person interactions when available.
Related: Poll: 90% of Americans Willing to Try Telemedicine