According to the CDC, approximately 146.5 million patients visit hospital emergency departments (EDs) in the United States each year. Among those seeking emergency care from EDs is a growing number of patients suffering from mental health crises. However, when it comes to addressing this high demand for psychiatric care, many health systems don’t know where to start. Fortunately, telepsychiatry can help.
The current state of telepsychiatry in the ED
So, why is it difficult to address mental health needs in the ED? The truth is, hospitals and health systems are overwhelmed, and addressing mental health needs in the emergency department can prove challenging for several reasons:
- Increased need for specialty care: Hospitals have witnessed a 24% spike in mental health emergency department visits for kids aged 5 to 11 and a 31% increase for adolescents aged 12 to 17.
- Lack of resources: When they don’t have adequate behavioral health support, some hospitals and health systems may work with locum tenens to help supplement gaps left by the ongoing provider shortage. However, locums often lack integration and don’t facilitate a long-term, team-based approach.
- High costs: According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, mental and substance use disorder ED visits had service delivery costs of more than $5.6 billion, representing more than 7% of the $76.3 billion total in ED visit costs.
- Patient return rate: In an analysis of ED visits for mental health and substance abuse, 14.2% of patients returned to the ED or hospital within 30 days.
If you’re seeing these problems day in and day out, you’re not alone.
How can telepsychiatry help with ED throughput?
Telepsychiatry improves ED throughput to quickly provide patients with access to high-quality psychiatric care through a virtual visit. With telepsychiatry, patients no longer need to wait hours to receive treatment from an ED physician or an in-person consultation from a psychiatric provider, which drastically reduces their length of stay in the ED.
However, before officially launching your telepsychiatry program into your ED, make sure you’ve worked through any barriers or misconceptions around telepsychiatry within your organization.
Three common barriers to telepsychiatry in the ED
Telepsychiatry is growing in popularity. In fact, according to the APA, nearly nearly six in 10 would use telehealth services for mental healthcare.
However, despite the growing popularity, there is still hesitancy around implementing a virtual solution, whether its technology concerns, common misconceptions about telepsychiatry, or cultural considerations. Determining how to tackle these worries is essential to a successful implementation.
- Technology barriers
The most common objection to implementing telepsychiatry into the ED is the fear of not knowing how to use the technology correctly, as well as a lack of fluency in technology. By partnering with a telepsychiatry vendor like Iris Telehealth, you’ll get a technology-neutral addition to your team that seamlessly integrates into your current systems and equipment you’re already using.
- Misconceptions about telepsychiatry
A common misconception about telepsychiatry in the ED is that it isn’t as effective as in-person treatment. However, telepsychiatry can be just as effective as in-person treatment. When a patient is experiencing a mental health emergency, telepsychiatry can ensure they’re quickly assessed, diagnosed, and provided with a treatment plan.
- Changing ED culture
Another tough objection is getting staff on board with telepsychiatry in the ED. Attending physicians and staff are used to providers being in close proximity to them. When EDs partner with Iris Telehealth, they’re organizations and providers are offered continual support and resources, no matter the time of day.
The biggest benefits for EDs working with a telepsychiatry vendor
When emergency departments partner with a telepsychiatry vendor like Iris Telehealth, they receive on-demand support and resources. Telepsych providers can assess a patient’s needs and manage their risk to ensure each patient receives proper treatment and is dispositioned quickly. Additionally, EDs can expect to see improved patient care.
Here are just a few benefits patients receive through telepsychiatry:
- Improved access to specialty care that might not otherwise be available
- Better outcomes due to integrated behavioral health and primary care
- Reduction in delayed care
- Reduction in transportation barriers, such as lack of transportation or the need for long drives
- Increased feelings of safety, security, and privacy
Emergency departments that utilize telepsychiatry have access to psychiatrists around the clock. And when mental health patients have access to adequate psychiatric care, they leave healthier and happier.
How telepsychiatry transforms the ED
Telepsychiatry is making it possible for more people to get the care they need in a hospital setting without the long wait. As telehealth becomes the norm, organizations see the benefits by way of on-demand resources, cost savings, and additional expertise.
On-demand services: Telepsychiatry serves as a 24/7 resource for organizations and their patients. That means patients have access to high-quality providers who ensure they receive proper treatment.
Cost savings: This virtual solution helps hospitals meet their organizational and financial needs by helping them avoid unnecessary bed holds.
By implementing a telepsychiatry solution, your organization can help more people in the community, increase throughput in the ED, and release pressure on your providers and overall organization.
How Iris Telehealth can help
We ensure patients always receive the best care and treatment possible. When a patient comes through the emergency department seeking mental health services, it’s critical to make their experience as seamless as possible.
If you would like to learn more details about how our services can integrate into your ED, you can download our whitepaper today.