As the healthcare industry evolves, one thing is certain: telehealth is here to stay. In fact, we believe that telepsychiatry will revolutionize the way healthcare organizations approach behavioral health.
Below we share five ways telepsychiatry will shape the future of behavioral healthcare and how your healthcare organization can prepare to thrive in this new normal.
1. Telepsychiatry will equalize behavioral healthcare access nationwide
Telepsychiatry is far from new. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Iris Telehealth worked with healthcare organizations to leverage telepsychiatry to provide quality behavioral health care.
However, due to federal and state-wide telehealth restrictions, many patients were cut off from quality care due to their geographical location.
In fact, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 25% of rural residents travel approximately 34 minutes to get to the nearest hospital. To make matters worse, many rural hospitals suffer from a shortage of specialists, including psychiatrists.
But after COVID-19 started impacting communities across the country, telehealth restrictions loosened, and suddenly millions of patients had the option to meet with their healthcare providers via a smartphone or another digital device.
Patients in both urban and rural locations can currently use telepsychiatry to access psychiatric services faster and get the care they need. They can also overcome financial constraints to psychiatric care, such as having to miss work or arrange childcare to travel to a psychiatrist’s office.
While access to in-person care will remain important even after the pandemic, it’s necessary to maintain or expand access to digital health tools like telepsychiatry that can serve as an alternative to in-person care.
2. Telehealth will increase medication adherence and follow-up visits
Mental health patients are often subject to being labeled with terms, such as “noncompliant,” “difficult,” and “frequent flyer.” But underneath these stigmas lies a stark truth: many of these patients are facing evidence-based barriers that prevent them from continuing their psychiatric care.
These barriers include:
- Socioeconomic obstacles (e.g., poverty, lack of insurance coverage)
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Misunderstandings around their mental health condition
- Mistrust toward healthcare providers
Comprehensive patient support is vital to eliminating these hurdles. This includes extensive education, accurate diagnosis, and targeted treatment from compassionate psychiatric providers – including through telehealth.
Through telepsychiatry, healthcare organizations can drive patient engagement while helping patients overcome stigmas, attend follow-up appointments, and strengthen medication adherence.
3. Telepsychiatry will enhance patient-provider flexibility
For both patients and providers, long wait times are often a significant burden in behavioral healthcare. Telepsychiatry can help solve these issues by decreasing the time it takes for mental health patients to see a psychiatric provider.
Rather than waiting hours for an in-person visit, patients can speak with a telepsychiatry provider in minutes. Telepsychiatry meets patients wherever they are — whether in their home or another remote location. In addition, patients can receive information about their care (from the telepsychiatry provider) via text message or email.
This flexibility delivers greater patient satisfaction and wellbeing —all while lightening staff workflows and allowing healthcare organizations to grow their cost savings.
4. Telepsychiatry will boost collaboration among stakeholders
Innovations like artificial intelligence and telepsychiatry have given new meaning to collaboration. For example, in telepsychiatry, we can use the patient data — obtained from digital forms and other health tools — to guide psychiatric care and communicate more precise, targeted insights to the healthcare team.
We’ve also seen stronger collaboration among legislators in the form of bipartisan telehealth policies designed to address real patient concerns, including mental health care. This leads us to believe that telepsychiatry will continue to add significant value to providers and patients long after the pandemic.
However, there’s still a lot of work to be done. For starters, there are only hints of what telehealth reimbursement will look like going forward. Therefore, it’s important for healthcare organizations to stay on top of federal, state, and FDA developments. This focus will ensure your organization make well-informed decisions when it comes to psychiatric patient care and support.
5. Telepsychiatry will aid in the shift to value-based care
The healthcare industry is increasingly leaning towards value-based care — most notably, population health. This shift means the traditional fee-for-service model is slowly disappearing, thereby motivating healthcare organizations to remove silos and take a more holistic approach to patient care.
It can be challenging to understand all the different aspects of population health, let alone develop cost-effective strategies to implement it. That’s why it’s crucial to partner with vendors that can help your organization achieve sustainable population-health success.
For example, you can partner with a technology-agnostic provider like Iris Telehealth, which saves you from having to invest in a special software platform, electronic medical record (EMR), or equipment. By partnering with a technology-agnostic vendor, qualified psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners will utilize your organization’s existing EMR and equipment.
That means an easier transition to a long-term telepsychiatry program, cost savings, more satisfied staff, and most importantly, better mental and population health outcomes.
The bottom line
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-simmering concerns about behavioral healthcare in the United States. The good news is that it sparked unprecedented adoption of telehealth. We predict telepsychiatry will play a greater role in a brighter future for behavioral healthcare.
Adapting to behavioral health’s new normal involves partnering with vendors who are committed to delivering modern, cost-effective, and optimal psychiatric services.
If you’re looking for highly qualified, compassionate psychiatrists and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, Iris Telehealth can help. Contact us for more information about starting a telepsychiatry program that can improve your organization’s behavioral health outcomes.