If you’re looking to implement telehealth services into your organization, you might wonder, “how does telehealth work?” We’ve broken down all the need-to-know information – starting with the definition of telemental health services.
Telemental health services are a growing and effective way to provide behavioral health care to people living in rural and underserved communities and hospitals experiencing a high influx of patients seeking behavioral health care. Telemental health services can take place on-site at an organization’s clinic or virtually from the patient’s home. Additionally, researchers say that within a few years, there will be a shortage and overextension of psychiatrists and other behavioral health workers, positioning telehealth as an excellent way to treat underserved populations and bridge care gaps.
But how does telehealth work for mental health care? Keep reading to learn about the benefits of telehealth, what telepsychiatry looks like in practice, and how it can be an invaluable resource for communities and providers alike.
Telemental health services solve common challenges
With an increased demand for specialty mental health treatment and a lack of resources to meet these needs, providing patients with access to high-quality psychiatric care through a virtual visit can help solve these common challenges. Telemental health can benefit providers as well, giving them specialists to lean on when working with patients with behavioral health needs.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the benefits for patients and providers.
Patient satisfaction: In a study by the American Medical Association (AMA), 79% of patients were satisfied with the care they received during their last telehealth visit. The option of having telehealth at your organization means patients can take their sessions from the comfort of their home or on-site at your organization, leading to greater patient satisfaction. Utilizing telehealth services can decrease no-show rates and ultimately increase access for people who experience conditions that make it hard for them to receive the care they need. Virtual visits also combat challenges related to long commute times, lack of transportation, and taking time off work.
Provider satisfaction: Provider satisfaction is also important to organizations that want to make sure their clinicians love their work. By incorporating virtual providers into your team, you can support your on-site clinicians with mental health specialists, enabling them to better serve their patients. Once integrated, remote providers feel like an extension of your on-site team and help create a better patient experience for your community.
How telemental health works for organizations
One of the benefits of bringing telemental health providers onto your team is consistency. With telemental health, there is no difference in the level of care, length of treatment, or how a provider conducts their appointment between a virtual and on-site appointment.
Whether you’re seeing your patients on-site or from their homes, here are a few steps you can take to ensure telehealth will work for your organization:
- Enable flexible access to virtual care: When implementing telemental health into your community organization, your patients have the option to receive their care on-site or take their appointments from home. When they are on-site, there is a video set up allowing them to connect with their remote provider. When a patient is seen from home, providers use a platform that directly connects them to the patient.
- Make sure your telehealth partner can integrate into your electronic medical record (EMR): Telehealth vendors should be able to seamlessly integrate into your systems and workflows. That’s why at Iris, we’re technology neutral and work with whatever platform an organization is using. Because we’re accustomed to the wide variety of equipment and EMRs on the market, we’re well-versed in the types of problems that might occur and can help reduce the frustration that comes with technology. (Want to learn more about EMRs and telepsychiatry? Check out our blog for all the details.)
- Work in collaborative care teams: Telepsychiatry can elevate the integrated care model and empower collaboration between on-site and remote providers. For instance, over a virtual appointment, it’s difficult to tell with certainty if a patient has an injury or any physical discomforts. An on-site provider can identify these things and relay the information to the remote provider. The partnership between both providers allows for a better diagnosis in the long run.
- Ensure you have a telehealth champion on-site at your organization: The biggest thing that will aid in the implementation of telehealth is to have a “telehealth champion” on-site. This champion is someone that believes in telehealth, understands it’s benefits, and can help others on-site see the benefits as well. A clinical setting with a champion helps remote providers ease into a care team leading to a more effective and seamless application of telehealth.
- Team up with a telepsychiatry vendor that offers provider matching: The provider matching process looks at what a provider wants in a job (think culture, values, schedule) and matches it with what an organization is looking for in a mental health professional (think specialty and experience). This match-making process helps both parties attain what they want and need, increases provider satisfaction, and ensures quality of care for organizations and their patients. Working with a telepsychiatry vendor that offers provider-matching services makes it easier to find a provider who can meet your organization’s needs and fill in care gaps.
How telehealth works for certain conditions and populations
It is essential to take a close look at what your patient populations want and need. For example, if your organization provides care to rural populations or non-English speaking communities, your organization may benefit from using telepsychiatry to help connect these populations to bilingual providers from the comfort of their own homes.
While telehealth can help patients address mental health concerns broadly, let’s take a closer look at how it can assist with specific conditions:
- Eating disorders: With a team that includes a doctor, a therapist, and a dietitian, treatment over telehealth can be an option for patients. Virtual nutrition coaching and talk therapy have contributed to addressing eating disorders. Eating disorders are increasingly prevalent among children and younger adults, and early intervention helps patients take the necessary steps to potentially avoid serious illness.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): For those struggling with PTSD, it can be hard to make an in-person appointment, especially if they can be triggered outside the comfort of their own home. By eliminating travel for patients with PTSD and using telehealth, your organization can allow your patients to receive specialty care and more flexibility with scheduling.
- Depression: The American Journal of Preventative Medicine says that 1 in 10 Americans reported having depression in 2020, with younger adults and adolescents having higher rates. Getting mental health care can be difficult for those with depression. Symptoms make it hard to get out of bed, get dressed, and sometimes meet face-to-face with a provider. Telehealth can offer an effective alternative for patients with depression to receive care, as it relieves many of those difficulties.
- Anxiety: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Diagnosing and treating patients through telehealth can be a great option. It gives them more privacy, comfort, and convenience, improving their experience. The anxiety of leaving the house, waiting in uncomfortable waiting rooms, or unfamiliar settings may help if telemental health services are available for your patients.
How Iris can help
Iris Telehealth is here as a resource for healthcare organizations that need support transitioning into telehealth. Whether your patients are accessing mental health services on-site or from their home, we’ll help ensure your community and providers are set up for success with a team committed to your organization’s vision for successful behavioral health services. Contact us today to see if our telepsychiatry services would be a good match for your organization.