If you’re reading this, you probably already have a wildly successful telepsychiatry program in your health system. You’re probably an expert with telemedicine technology, and you know that patients love remote care just as much as in-person care.
What you may not know is how to determine if you should expand your telepsychiatry program.
We get it. Taking the plunge was hard, and it’s not always easy to figure out if growing your telepsychiatry department is the right next step.
Here’s a crazy statistic: more than 90% of our partnerships grow within the first year—so we know a thing or two about growth. We have watched our partners go through some of the growing pains first-hand. And we’ll be honest: the growing pains come when you grow your telepsych program later than you should have. Better late than never, but why not start the process (and the growth!) sooner?
There are typically a few main reasons for expanding an already existing telepsychiatry program:
1. You have patients scheduled out 2 months.
Telepsychiatry was meant to help with wait times, but now your practice is growing and you’re back where you were – struggling to meet the need for mental healthcare. If your wait times are this long, it might be time to re-assess your current program. Our partners have found that in this situation, the simplest solution is to continue expanding your already-existing telepsychiatry department rather than hiring another on-site psychiatrist.
2. Your existing psychiatrists are overwhelmed by their patient load.
Part of the reason you started a telepsychiatry program was to lighten the workload for your on-site providers, but the telepsychiatry department has barely scratched the surface of relieving that load. This might mean it’s time to increase the hours of operation for your telepsychiatry department so your on-site staff can function without feeling overwhelmed. Many of our partners have found that telepsychiatry works as an excellent supplementary staffing model when used correctly and efficiently.
3. Your staff and patients are responding well to telepsychiatry, and your numbers are increasing.
Maybe you were hesitant about telepsychiatry at first. We often hear that patients hating it is the biggest concern in implementing telepsychiatry. Now, you’ve learned that this is far from the truth. Technology is such a big part of our daily lives, and it is only natural that it would intersect with healthcare this way. Your telepsychiatry providers may have also created wonderful relationships with your staff and patients, leaving them wanting more. If this is the case, you already know that growing your telepsychiatry program will only lead to happier patients and better numbers. What do you have to lose?
4. You are in need of a specialized provider.
When you started your telepsychiatry program, you took the general route and found someone to help cover basic patient needs. Now, you’re realizing you need specialty care, whether that’s finding a Spanish-speaking provider, a child psychiatrist, a geriatric psychiatrist, etc. Why not do that with telepsychiatry?
5. You’re getting more and more referrals and new patients.
Now that you’ve implemented your telepsychiatry program, you’re finally able to treat mental healthcare patients the way you’ve always wanted. Because you’ve finally filled this gap in your service, you’re overwhelmed with referrals and can’t keep up. This might be a good time to consider expanding your telepsychiatry department.
6. You are acquiring more patient rooms or space in your building.
Are you adding on to your current facility or gaining access to more space to help with your growing patient population? If this is the case, you are in a great position to plan ahead and begin expanding your telepsychiatry department now. This way, when you finally gain access to your beautiful new space, you are ready to fill it.
7. Your no-show rate is lowering.
Patients are *actually* showing up, and you’re about to pinch yourself. It’s crazy what can happen when we have continuity of care: you no longer have providers sitting around doing nothing when a patient doesn’t show up – meaning they’re reaching their full capacity and workload. This might mean that, in the near future, you will be in a place where increasing your telepsychiatry department’s hours will make sense for you.
8. You realize your telepsychiatry provider is one of the best providers you’ve ever had.
We’re not trying to toot our own horn here…but we do only extend a formal offer to 6% of clinical candidates who apply to work with us. That means we know we’re getting the best of the best, and we won’t lie: Care quality is a pretty common reason our partners stick with us. Often, partners are initially uncertain of how well our providers will integrate into their existing workflows. However, more often than not, they are pleasantly surprised to find that they become an essential part of the team, beloved not just by patients but by on-site staff. If this is the case for you, maybe it’s time to consider expanding your provider’s hours from 16 to 30, or even exploring bringing on another telepsychiatry provider.
9. You still can’t find that on-site psychiatrist…
If this is the case, you’re not alone! We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard this story. It’s the reason telepsychiatry became so popular in the first place. People struggle to determine when it’s time to throw in the towel on finding the on-site psychiatrist of their dreams. But ask yourself this: Are you happy with your current telepsychiatry provider? If so, maybe it’s time to continue on the telepsychiatry train and do what’s already working for you.
10. You realize that telepsychiatry is a sustainable, long-term solution.
What you thought would be a band-aid completely upended your expectations. Often, when people enter into telepsychiatry contracts, they think of it like locum tenens or a temporary fix. The truth is, telepsychiatry is the future of mental healthcare. Now, as you’re realizing that everyone loves it, you also see that it is a sustainable, long-term solution. If you’re ready to make telepsychiatry your one-stop shop for all things mental healthcare (which we’re big advocates for, by the way), consider expanding your program.
What Does It Look Like to Expand a Telepsych Program?
Maybe you’ve realized it’s time to grow your telepsychiatry program. Whether it’s internal telepsychiatry or through a telepsychiatry organization like Iris Telehealth, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here’s the good news: You’ve already done the hard part. You’ve already figured out the technology, created workflows, and trained your first telemedicine provider.
Growing your telepsychiatry program can be as simple as adding a couple days of coverage to your program or reaching out to your telepsychiatry organization to see if they can help you find another provider. Regardless of your needs, expanding a current telepsychiatry department is nothing to be intimidated by. In fact, we believe it’s something to celebrate!
About Iris Telehealth
Iris Telehealth is a telepsychiatry provider organization made up of the highest quality psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners. Our mission is to provide underserved communities with access to the best mental health specialists and prescribers. We are owned and operated by doctors who understand what patients need and have earned a reputation for providing outstanding customer service. Iris values building strong professional relationships with our partners and their staff. We are dedicated to understanding your organization’s needs and operational goals because we recognize that your success is critical to our own.
Iris Telehealth has helped countless hospitals and community health organizations across the country add telepsychiatry to their list of services. We believe everyone should have access to compassionate mental health care, and we have made it our mission to find innovative, affordable ways of making this possible!