Tag: Telepsychiatry

The City of Laredo: A Model for Border Town Behavioral Health

As the third-most populated city along the Mexico-United States border, Laredo, Texas is a unique microcosm of behavioral health challenges.  Laredo’s nearly 96 percent Hispanic population, which is predominately uninsured (31 percent) or underinsured (41 percent; through Medicaid, Medicare, or CHIP), has routinely struggled with affordable access to behavioral health care. With only eight or so licensed psychiatrists treating approximately 300,000 people, mental health treatment has traditionally been a reactive solution, rather than a proactive one.

The Times Are Changing

The City of Laredo Health Department (CLHD), the only Local Health Department in Webb and its surrounding counties of Jim Hogg, Maverick, and Zapata, has proved an invaluable resource for these rural Americans.  Thanks to their recent partnership with Televero Health, Laredo is finally able to offer comprehensive behavioral health care to its underserved and struggling citizens: women; adolescents; those living with HIV/AIDS; those struggling with addiction.  To quote CLHD’s Director, Dr. Hector Gonzalez: “once we found out more than 60 percent of our patients had an abnormal behavioral health screen, where did we send them?  We are a Health Professional Shortage Area and the most needed are psychiatrists.”  Many of these patients now get their evaluations and treatment exclusively through Televero providers.

Our approach is to deliver a turn-key behavioral health program, complete with a collaborative care team of licensed therapists and counselors (vetted, dedicated, and bilingual); provide integrated behavioral health programs (primary care, HIV child/adolescent, SUD/addiction, and more); enable telehealth visits through a HIPAA-compliant platform (care coordination, automated patient communications, scheduling, billing, and records integration); and guide the operation until it is self-sustaining.  With several hundred consults provided and a no-show rate of less than 15 percent, our joint efforts speak for themselves.

Our partnership with CLHD is a continuous process of growth and support. As their Chief of Health Preventive Services, Dr. Luis Cerda, puts it, “Televero has provided CLHD with an excellent service that I now feel is an in-house service.” 

We are proud of our shared accomplishments, and together, look forward to a future where behavioral health resources are at everyone’s disposal. 

What Are On-Site Telepsychiatry Services?

Telepsychiatry Defined

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.