Telehealth continues to make waves as an effective and innovative way to deliver quality behavioral health care services. It’s evident the popularity of virtual care is rising, as around 7 million people used telehealth services in 2018. Telehealth removes geographic barriers to care, allowing providers to virtually see clients anytime, anywhere through the use of mobile technologies. Studies show that 60% of millennials support this web-based care tactic, which further proves telehealth is the standard for service delivery through either scheduled or on-demand visits through an application convenient to the patient.
Recent legislation and funding initiatives have made telehealth not only a topic of conversation, but also a new reality for a lot of providers. In some states, legislation has gone into effect that allows providers to treat individuals outside of their own state lines. In addition, the recent ability to negotiate telehealth rates with payers becomes an important asset because telehealth is not reimbursed the same way as an in-person visit and does not include audio-only phone calls, email or fax. This sets the stage for virtual care to play a serious role in behavioral health service options by further eliminating barriers to care outside of state lines.
Netsmart supports a full spectrum of telehealth use cases throughout the country. In 2018, Netsmart partnered with American Well
to deliver an integrated telehealth experience for both the provider and consumer. The partnership with American Well also allows our network of providers and consumers to access the American Well provider network, in order to connect supply to demand across all the communities we serve.
Access to a wide network of providers is just the beginning. The partnership allows telehealth integration into the electronic health record (EHR). This differentiator allows scheduling and seamless billing for all users as well as access to the clinical record. Providers schedule appointments and bill for those services in the EHR as they normally would, and there is no change in workflow. The consumer then uses either a mobile device or desktop to initiate and conduct the virtual visit. All of these transactions are safe and secure healthcare-centric, HIPPA compliant, and meet American Telemedicine Association guidelines for what constitutes a virtual session.
The scalability of telehealth is enabling many use cases and proving to the new standard of care delivery. For example, AltaPointe Health Systems
, an Alabama-based behavioral health organization partnered with their local emergency department (ED) to deliver virtual psychiatric care. The ED nurse initiates the virtual session with the AltaPointe psychiatrist. The individual presents in the virtual waiting room within the psychiatrist’s EHR and completes the psychiatric assessment virtually by the bedside.
AltaPointe reports reduced average wait times to secure a psych consult from 24-72 hours to 28 minutes and a 33% reduction in ED costs for individuals conducting a psych consult. The telehealth program provides value to the hospital, not only driving down costs, but also improving outcomes and provider and individual satisfaction. Additionally, they provided 8,735 telehealth sessions in 2018, with more than 33,000 individuals served.
There are other broader use cases where telehealth can continue to be leveraged in all organizations and states moving forward.
School-based Virtual Care – Forming partnerships with schools and school districts enables students to access virtual care team members at any time. Giving students an outlet to quickly seek psychiatric care benefits both their overall well-being and helps school staff properly manage behavioral health related issues.
Law Enforcement/Jail Diversion – When an individual is engaging with law enforcement, and a behavioral health issue is detected, the officer can start a telehealth session from their mobile device and engage care team members nearby. Often times, people are arrested and taken to jail, when in reality they needed psychiatric or behavioral health services. By re-routing to the right care team, individuals avoid unnecessary arrests and are provided the appropriate services they need.
Are you utilizing EHR-based telehealth that integrates with your existing workflows? You shouldn’t have to break out of your existing workflow to conduct a session or to document the session in a separate system. Progressing from there, you can use the greater provider network for your consumers to tap into licensures they may not have had access to before. Are you looking to share your provider capacity across your own network in order to improve provider efficiencies? Are you working with partners in the community where you want to enable your providers to virtual within their agencies?
Are you on the right path? Does your current solution and care connections allow you to provide integrated virtual care? I urge you to evaluate your virtual care strategy today.