The pandemic has amplified the need for behavioral health services and has also made access to care for those at risk more difficult, as noted by the Biden administration.
At the same time, the fallout from COVID-19 has accelerated people’s willingness to engage with telemedicine and telemedicine. So how do hospitals and health systems deal with an influx of patients with mental health problems seeking quick access to high-quality psychiatric care while improving patient flow?
Between the nationwide shortage of psychiatrists, staff burnout, tight budgets, and evolving health regulations, many hospitals and health systems don’t know where to start. Fortunately, telepsychiatry can help.
Andy Flanagan is CEO of Iris Telehealth, a telepsychiatry technology and services company. We interviewed him to secure the land layout for virtual psychiatric care today and beyond the pandemic.
Q: How are health care provider organizations managing a wave of mental health patients seeking quick access to quality psychiatric care while improving patient flow?
A: The growing demand for behavioral health care is difficult for everyone, including health systems. The truth is, these systems are overwhelmed and were never designed to handle the influx of patients with behavioral health problems who turn to them for help.
Currently, many hospitals are working to meet their patients’ behavioral health needs through innovation, leveraging telemedicine and extensive networks of providers to create proactive behavioral health care models.
From what we have seen, the most successful strategy is an integrated model in which the healthcare system, psychiatrists, therapists, psychiatric mental health nurses (PMHNPs) and other key stakeholders surround the patient in a coordinated way to provide a individualized and value-based approach. treatment.
Hospitals need to think about patients first and consider how values-based care will benefit them. Although the behavioral health consultation may not be profitable for the hospital, the patient may go to the emergency room without it.
When this escalation occurs, both the healthcare system and the patient feel the financial impact of the emergency room visit. A holistic approach that leverages telemedicine for front-end meetings with behavioral health patients, site visits for those in need, and remote monitoring for home monitoring and follow-up is a solid strategy for addressing volume issues and productivity, including benchmark arrears.
Behavioral health conditions tend to require ongoing treatment, which means that people will continue to need high-volume care. With such a high demand, there will never be enough hospital staff to handle the volume of behavioral health patients entering the healthcare system, let alone their ongoing care.
Hospitals need help. Integrating traditional methods of care delivery with technology to support patient flow while ensuring coordinated care plans is essential to ensure that patients receive the care they need when they need it.
Q: How can telepsychiatry help with the psychiatrist shortage crisis?
A: The numbers are clear: There are simply not enough doctors to support patients’ behavioral health needs using traditional methods of care delivery. Technology and innovation must play a key role in meeting the high demand for care. This is where telepsychiatry comes into play.
Telepsychiatry offers a practical solution for more efficient distribution of clinical psychiatric resources such as LCSW, psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists. Behavioral health can be effectively treated in a remote environment because it is not a disease where severity and treatment are based on laboratory tests, biomarkers, or physical exams.
Most patients can be effectively assessed and cared for remotely, enabling providers to make the most effective use of available resources, regardless of location.
Telepsychiatry allows providers to put the right patient in front of the right doctor at the right time. Virtual assistance enables responsive on-site triage to ensure proper alignment between patient and provider during the consultation.
For example, suppose a patient is initially scheduled for a consultation with a psychiatrist and, during the evaluation, it becomes clear that a therapist can adequately treat the patient. If so, a change of provider can be implemented almost immediately. This agile structure allows psychiatric resources such as psychiatric nurses or LCSWs to perform at their maximum licensing without wasting provider or patient time.
The telepsychiatry model also enables patients from historically disadvantaged communities to receive high-quality psychiatric care. An overwhelming percentage of patients with behavioral health conditions live in regions with insufficient access to psychiatric resources.
Telepsychiatry connects these patients with virtual access to top-tier psychiatric service providers from across the country, regardless of where they are located. This ability helps address the supply / demand imbalance that exists in various geographic areas.
Ultimately, these benefits can be achieved throughout the continuum of care. Telepsychiatry can help provide quality, timely and sustainable care, whether it be for patients in the emergency room, for patients who have recently been discharged, for patients waiting in a referral queue, or for those seeking assistance in outpatient clinics.
Q: In your experience, does telepsychiatry help with patient satisfaction? And what about the supplier organization costs?
A: A wide range of peer-reviewed evidence has emerged indicating that many patients are more satisfied with telemedicine visits under certain circumstances. Convenience is a major feature of the technology that contributes to this satisfaction.
Telepsychiatry also helps address many social determinants of health that can often act as barriers to care. Additionally, patients with behavioral health problems often face economic and social challenges, including obtaining necessary transportation, childcare, and time off work to accommodate in-person visits.
Telepsychiatry makes it easier for these patients to receive care according to their schedules and as part of their lifestyle, leading to greater satisfaction.
There is also an element of privacy that accompanies telepsychiatry. In a virtual visit, patients do not have to sit in a waiting room with other people. They don’t deal with the anxiety associated with others potentially wondering why they are there.
Telepsychiatry facilitates a highly private environment where only the patient and provider are involved. This privacy helps reduce the fear of being stigmatized, once again leading to a more satisfying experience.
Finally, telepsychiatry improves patient satisfaction by enabling patients to receive more timely care. With traditional methods, patients can be forced to wait several months to get a consultation. Virtual assistance offers more options and allows patients to be seen more efficiently.
From a cost standpoint, telepsychiatry helps healthcare systems optimize utilization by ensuring that each line of service is practical to its maximum license. Additionally, by enabling leaner behavioral health consultations, providers can prevent patients from switching to the emergency room, the most expensive care environment for patients and providers.