Telepsychiatry is the use of telemedicine, or “remote medicine”, technology, to provide psychiatric assessment and treatment to patients. When implemented properly, telepsychiatry services are indistinguishable from in-person care. While there are some limitations to telepsychiatry depending on the U.S. state of operation – the ability to prescribe certain classes of medicine; reimbursement rates for CPT codes – the quality of care is always equivalent.
Recent Developments and Their Impacts
With over 5,000 mental health care Health Provider Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in the United States, more clinics and hospitals have turned to telepsychiatry for solutions. States like Texas are acknowledging the efficiency and reach of this technology by enacting parity laws – laws which guarantee equivalent reimbursement by private payers for services rendered through telehealth technology. These laws are encouraging for physicians at the forefront of healthcare advancement, as they facilitate the low-risk methods that will be needed to address the growing demand for behavioral health services.
Improving Access to Care
For many clinics, telepsychiatry might be the only practical solution to treat patients needing behavioral health care. As psychiatrists and other mental health professionals primarily practice within or close to major city limits, rural areas often rely on a single practitioner to treat hundreds, if not thousands, of potential patients. Most general practitioners are not adequately equipped or specialized to serve those with mental ailments, and too often must refer their patients to emergency care. Adding remote screenings, evaluations, and treatment to your current practice model would be useful in bridging this gap in care.
The Advantages for Your Clinic
As a fixture of your clinic, telepsychiatry is non-intrusive and cost-effective. Depending on how you choose to finance your behavioral health services – whether by accepting commercial insurance; offering a sliding fee schedule; seeking external funding – you might be able to greatly increase your practice’s revenue. Expanding your reach of care through behavioral health is also a good way to introduce new patients to your practice, and satisfy existing ones.
Getting Up and Running
Adding behavioral health services in your clinic comes with its own challenges: hiring the best-fit psychiatrist or counselor; understanding the billing and reimbursement structure; implementing a web portal and video client under HIPAA-compliance; and so on. Thankfully, there are companies that will work with your clinic to operationalize the process (do the heavy-lifting). Whether you are a physician, nurse, or practice manager, your priority is caring for your patients. An external solution can help you focus on what you do best.