Telepsychiatry Companies

Category: Blog

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Sophie Feller.   

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I was looking at different telehealth companies and Iris was one of the top companies that popped up. I kept seeing the name and I became more curious. I looked at the website and then I had the opportunity to interview.

It felt like a very organic process. I had heard only good things about Iris leading up to my interview and that has only continued to be born out – kind of an amazing place to work.

Q. How does telehealth compare to in-person care?

A. In some ways it’s incomparable in the sense that it is very different, but I don’t think different means that it’s qualitatively any better or worse. I’ve found that I am just as able to connect with patients via telehealth as I am in person.

There are certainly some things that are different. For example, you don’t have as many physical cues sometimes because you can’t necessarily see the person’s whole body – things like that at times are noticeable.

Overall, I’ve found it remarkable how easy it is to connect with people by telehealth and how receptive people are to telehealth as a platform and as a way to interact with a provider.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. I connect with patients the same way I would in person, honestly. I work in an emergency room setting mostly with people who are in crisis.

Oftentimes I foster connection by trying to present how I actually feel, which is calm and wanting to be present for the person. That comes across more than I would’ve expected – just as it might in person.

How one presents oneself, listening, and being empathetic and reflective – all of those things are very human, and they don’t change that much between telehealth and in person.

I try to stay true to myself and I found that I’m able to connect just as well by telehealth.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. I think the most important thing is to handle work-life balance with intention. I am very intentional about the time I have away from work and how I want to spend it. When I am at work, I feel fully present and engaged. And when I am not at work, I do as much as I can to disconnect and be present in the other parts of my life.

I have times that I set aside to exercise, and I am always making time to be outside and to spend time with loved ones, friends, and family. For me, the most important ingredient is being intentional about having time away from work and using it in ways that help me feel balanced.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. The most rewarding part is, at Iris, we’re serving people who really need our help. We can facilitate psychiatric care to settings where at times people might not otherwise be able to receive care. We’re breaking down some of those barriers and making care accessible.

Connecting with patients is always the most rewarding and meaningful – and families when I have the opportunity to do that – which is actually quite frequently.

It’s also rewarding to have amazing colleagues and to feel so supported — that is very restorative and motivating for me to feel so energized by my colleagues.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. I’ve really found my professional home with Iris, and in large part that’s due to the people who work at the company. For example, overnight we have telehealth care coordinators who help us to navigate administrative issues with the health systems where we’re seeing patients and those people have become colleagues and friends.

For example, one of them I recently picked up from the airport and drove her and her family to their hotel because they were visiting the city where I live, and we had lunch. It has been amazing how much, not only I’ve been able to connect with patients, but also with colleagues in a virtual environment.

I feel like overnight we’ve become a kind of little family and we have gotten to know each other. Because there’s a smaller staff onsite at the hospitals overnight, I also feel like I’ve gotten to know some of the staff at the hospital.

It does feel very collegial, very friendly, and I feel very happy.

Q. Why do you think telehealth is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. Telepsychiatry is the now of behavioral health care. It is the future, but I also think we need it now and we need more of it. There are so many barriers to people accessing mental health care and getting to a place where there could be an appointment.

Transportation, cost – there are so many reasons that people are unable to access care and I think for many people telehealth eliminates many of those barriers. I think the more telehealth that we can do, the better because we’re giving care to people who might not otherwise get it.

Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

A. Embrace it! Let go of any preconceived notions that you might have about what it is or what it isn’t because I never thought I would feel so connected to my colleagues with telehealth.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet colleagues in person and that has been hugely rewarding. I incorrectly assumed I would feel more isolated, and I don’t feel isolated at all. I feel very connected.

In terms of patient care, I would encourage anyone considering telehealth to leave space for the idea that it is just as possible to connect with people in a virtual environment as it is in person, because that’s certainly what I found.

Those interactions can still be really profound and really meaningful.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Feller. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Category: Blog

Behavioral health is an essential part of care, and helping ensure your health system is equipped with the clinicians you need, high-quality services, and a support team to help provide guidance and help track and improve metrics are all key components of a successful behavioral health approach.

In this blog, we outline the five ways health systems can optimize the behavioral health services at their organization.

1. Create a holistic strategy across all patient journeys and sites of care and define what success is for your health system

    There are a few scenarios that underscore the importance of having a holistic strategy across the patient journey.

    First, your patients need timely access to care. If they can’t access outpatient behavioral healthcare, they may escalate to the emergency department.

    Next, if a patient is discharged from your inpatient units without proper discharge-follow-up, they may need to be readmitted.

    Patient journeys span sites of care and ensuring a holistic strategy to the service line is critical.

    In addition, behavioral and physical health don’t exist in silos – they go hand-in-hand. For example, if a patient is experiencing a chronic condition that requires medication, there could be a behavioral health component that prevents them from staying adherent to their treatment plan.

    Dan Ferris, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at Iris Telehealth

    These factors require a holistic and planful strategy. Not all patient journeys need to be solved simultaneously, but having an idea of the ideal end-state will ensure every step you take gets you closer to your desired goal.

    2. Integrate virtual providers into your inpatient psychiatric units to ensure patients can access behavioral health care and providers aren’t getting burned out

    Augmenting onsite teams with virtual teams can deliver high-quality care while ensuring staff is working top-of-license, hospitals are optimizing revenue and providers are not burning out. 

    Integrating virtual and on-site care teams in inpatient psychiatric units is a best practice deployed nationwide, enabling a continuity and level of care that may not be possible if you are fully reliant on on-site providers. 

    3. Provide 24/7/365 access to quality behavioral healthcare in EDs to increase throughput and reduce ED boarding

    On average, patients wait 4.7 hours to receive mental health care in the emergency department.

    If a patient is left waiting for hours to see a psychiatrist, that’s time the room could be used for another patient in need of urgent care. The faster a patient can get through the ED, the more financially sustainable the ED will become.

    Joe Clubb, Vice President of Operations in Mental Health and Addiction Services at Allina Health

    As it relates to ED throughout, virtual care has helped us reduce the time our behavioral health patients spend in the ED. Before our partnership, the patients who had the longest length of stay in our emergency departments were our behavioral health patients.

    We launched a whole value stream approach, and with help from Iris, we’ve seen the length of stay decrease from 12 hours to nine hours. This 25% improvement has had a big impact on our ED throughput.

    We’re proud of our work with Allina to help their population gain access to behavioral health care. In addition to our partnership with Allina, we’ve helped our partners increase ED discharge rates 15% while reducing 7-day revisit rates 42%.

    Click here to read the full story of how Iris helped support Allina Health’s behavioral health initiatives.

    4. Optimize behavioral health care delivery for patients across the outpatient spectrum by leveraging short-term care models, top of license providers, and digital tools to ensure every patient receives timely care

    Dan Ferris, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer

    There is sometimes a misperception in the market that scaling outpatient behavioral healthcare may not be sustainable. Our experience proves that it is possible to scale and sustain outpatient behavioral health by driving sustainable fee-for-service economics and by using behavioral health to drive patient acquisition and market share.

    Widening the aperture and focusing on patient acquisition, loyalty, and reducing leakage creates cascading financial benefits that support long-term investment in behavioral health.

    5. Leverage data to measure and manage key clinical, operational, and financial KPIs

    You can only manage what you can measure, and success starts by defining what key performance indicators and operational, financial and quality metrics matter most to your hospital.

    For some organizations, it might be ED throughput, length of stay in the med surg unit, average daily census patient in the psychiatric unit or no-show rates in an outpatient clinic.

    At Iris, we have the clinical and operational expertise that helps ensure we’re putting what we learn into action. Our Quality Management program ensures we measure and monitor data regularly and drive continuous improvement activities to ensure our programs are hitting on key financial, operational, and clinical KPIs.

    If you’d like to learn more about how Iris Telehealth can help you optimize your behavioral health solution at your hospital, please contact us today!

    Category: Blog

    In a webinar hosted by Iris Telehealth Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Thomas Milam, Beth Engelhorn, Executive Director of Southside Behavioral Health in South Central Virginia and Iris provider Dale McQueeney, PMHNP, shared how virtual services can help optimize care delivery for patients experiencing substance use disorders (SUDs).

    This blog breaks down the core takeaways of that webinar to look at the current state of the opioid epidemic and the role of virtual MAT programs in the crisis.

    The leading percentage of overdoses derive from illegally made fentanyl

    For decades now, communities across the U.S. have grappled with the opioid epidemic, which saw a significant increase between 1999 and 2010, reaching a stable trend between 2010 and 2020.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading percentage of overdoses derives from illegally made fentanyl with no other opioids or stimulants — closely followed by illegally made fentanyl mixed with cocaine and illegally made fentanyl with methamphetamine.

    Access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) services that support these patients is critical.

    Dale McQueeney, PMHNP, has been with Iris Telehealth for four years and works with the Center for Human Development in rural eastern Oregon, serving as the primary provider for their MAT program and their Associate Medical Director for substance use disorder treatment.

    According to Dale, patients experiencing OUD may encounter the following challenges in their journey to recovery:

    • Homelessness
    • Food insecurity
    • Unemployment
    • Lack of regular healthcare

    These individuals need a lot of support and require a team of professionals to help them get the care they need, whether that’s dedicated certified recovery mentors, case managers, or a SUD team.

    The role of Medication Assisted Treatment in delivering life-saving care

    MAT programs engage patients in whole-person care that helps treat OUD by helping normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of opioids, and relieve physical cravings.

    The benefits of MAT:

    • Decreases opioid-related overdose deaths
    • Decreases illicit opioid use and criminal activity
    • Increases social functioning and retention in treatment
    • Decreases transmission of infectious disease (HIV and Hep C)
    • Improves maternal and fetal outcomes for pregnant or breastfeeding women

    At Southside Behavioral Health, offering access to virtual MAT services is essential to effective whole-patient care

    Southside Behavioral Health is a community service board that provides community mental health care across rural South Central Virigina.

    They serve approximately 3,000 people —including through their MAT program, which heavily leverages virtual care due to the shortage of local providers who can deliver these services.

    Beth Engelhorn, Executive Director, Southside Behavioral Health

    We offer MAT services hand-in-glove with our other services. If someone walks in the door, we do a comprehensive needs assessment and figure out everything they need.

    If they want treatment for OUD, we send them to our nurse practitioner that prescribes all other mental health medication. We recently hired an Iris psychiatrist who helps us with that, and we consider it as part of the treatment continuum within the agency and don’t differentiate between that and anything else someone comes in for.

    In addition to virtual providers, Southside also has specialized staff who treat SUDs and focus on whole-person care. They work with the person on their goals, and they choose their own course of treatment.

    Good care starts with comprehensive assessments, informative screenings, and a non-judgmental approach

    Beth’s care team at Southside conducts comprehensive assessments to figure out each patient’s needs.

    Beth Engelhorn, Executive Director, Southside Behavioral Health

    Our team is really good at working through all the assessments and why they need to be done. We are a grant funded program in regard to our MAT, so we’re required to have patients fill out an additional assessment that has to be done.

    We make it a reward – if they complete the form, they get a gift card. We as a team work really hard to make sure the person feels heard and that they know they’re not just a number or a piece of data.

    Most Southside patients receive virtual care directly in their clinics due to bandwidth limitations in their rural communities. At their first MAT appointment, Southside staff will have patients take a drug screening – with subsequent screenings happening at provider discretion as patients continue their treatment.

    The results of these screenings help the provider have a conversation with the patient about how it could affect their treatment, safety, and provide information to help the individual decide how they want to proceed.

    From the providers perspective, Dale says that she’s rarely surprised to learn what shows up in a drug screen. She says communication is key and she lets her patients know that she won’t stop prescribing to them if they tell her what they’re using.

    Dale says the information she gains about her patients provides guidance into how to support them.

    Reducing barriers to care and reducing stigma are keys to quality treatment

    Dale schedules each patient’s first visit to take place over video at the clinic whenever possible, so she and the patient can make eye contact and the team can conduct the initial drug screening.

    However, to reduce as many barriers to care as possible, Dale holds subsequent appointments over the phone or over video from the patient’s home if it’s harder for them to come into the office.

    During her visits with patients, Dale is also mindful of the stigma patients may experience day-to-day.

    A study by the Cohen Veterans Network found that 31% of Americans have worried others judging them when telling someone they’ve sought behavioral health services. The report states that 21% have lied about getting care.

    Dale McQueeney, PMHNP, Iris Telehealth provider

    I try to bring a sense of non-judgement into all my interactions, and I listen. They appreciate that I meet them where they are, and I get to know them as people. Low barrier, non-judgement, and harm reduction are all the techniques I try to bring.

    Ensuring patients can get quality care in a judgement-free space is crucial to their well-being and recovery.

    Life-saving medications keep patients alive and are an important part of a harm-reduction approach

    Dale shares that it’s very common for her patients to use substances outside of buprenorphine – like methamphetamine and cannabis. If she knows they’re going to be using methamphetamines, she recommends using fentanyl testing strips as a part of a harm-reduction approach.

    Dale also shares other techniques she uses with her patients, including motivational interviewing.

    Dale McQueeney, PMHNP, Iris Telehealth Provider

    I do use a lot of motivational interviewing. I grab onto those little kernels, that little bit of hope, and I hope for them. I say things like, ‘I’m trying to keep you alive. I think you’re worth being here.’

    And because they are – all of my patients are worth being here. I find those little things – there’s always something that you can grab onto.

    At Southside, Beth says they’ve had to provide a lot of training to move their providers towards a harm-reduction approach and lean on collaboration to help provide holistic for their patients.

    Beth Engelhorn, Executive Director, Southside Behavioral Health

    We offer people harm reduction kits where we give out fentanyl strips, syringes, and whatever someone needs to keep themselves safe.

    We talk to them about their increased risk to their general health and it becomes a place of dialogue. We let their therapist know they tested positive for cocaine and amphetamines and the nurse practitioner reads my notes and we have a conversation about shared client. I appreciate the team approach – we share concern for their health and safety.

    Virtual care helps bring addiction treatment to rural areas

    The behavioral health provider shortage has hit many communities hard – especially those in rural parts of the country. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, there are 122 million people living in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

    That makes sourcing behavioral health providers even more challenging for those living in rural areas. However, with telehealth, these communities can access specialists they otherwise wouldn’t be able to recruit.

    Beth Engelhorn, Executive Director, Southside Behavioral Health

    Virtual care has allowed us to bring in professionals, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, therapists, where we wouldn’t be able to have them in our area at all. Our MAT program would probably not exist if we didn’t have virtual care.

    It has actually allowed us to bring this to our community and let it grow. And not only that, to have really competent, talented people ready to provide those services.

    Behavioral health providers like Dale, whose focus is on treating those with dual diagnoses and prescribing medication for addiction treatment, creates rich connections with her patients in Oregon, even while living in Maine.

    Dale McQueeney, PMHNP, Iris Telehealth Provider

    I want to emphasize the power of telehealth. I live in Maine and became aware of how devastated New England has been by the opioid epidemic. And then I learned how other regions of the country were similarly affected. Now through Iris Telehealth, I have the ability to use my skills and education to serve the people of rural Eastern Oregon. That’s all because of the power of telehealth.

    About Iris

    If you’d like to learn more about Iris and our MAT services, please contact us today!

    You can also click here to watch the full conversation with Beth, Dale, and Dr. Milam.

    Category: Blog

    When health systems work to implement a new platform, not only do they need to ensure new platforms integrate into their current technologies, but they also must get team buy-in and ensure it makes their workflows and systems easier — not more complicated.

    For their behavioral health services in particular, many health systems rely on telehealth to help them reach patients. However, not all platforms are created equal and there’s much to consider when choosing which partner or platform to integrate across your organization.

    In this blog, we will walk through how hospitals are addressing behavioral health platform integration, important considerations, and the difference a technology-neutral partner can make to daily operations.

    For many health systems, customized interfaces are expensive and labor-intensive

    In 2017, the American Hospital Association released data on the importance of interoperability in healthcare and how connected, shared health information can help achieve the best possible outcomes.

    When looking at barriers to exchange and interoperability in healthcare, they found:

    • 63% of receiving providers lack compatible technology
    • 57% report exchange challenges across different vendor platforms
    • 37% found it difficult to match or identify the correct patient between systems
    • 35% reported exchange with outside systems to be costly
    • 28% said that customized interfaces are expensive and labor intensive

    Excellent platform integration means prioritizing patient and provider usability

    Hospitals want the patient and provider experience to be seamless, and part of that is ensuring all platforms work together, don’t create extra steps, and maintain security protocols. That’s why it’s important to think through what interoperability looks like and the components related to patient and provider experience.

    Let’s take a closer look at a few of these points:

    • Patient experience: Integrating platforms that seamlessly work with an organization’s existing systems creates a better experience for patients. Instead of having to log in to multiple platforms for things like therapy and appointment setting, having everything in one place can help create a more seamless, accessible experience.
    • Provider experience: On the provider side, onboarding behavioral health technology that requires staff training can create a barrier to entry and utilize more of the hospital’s already strained resources and time. For example, if a provider is using Epic for one part of their job and a separate system for note-taking, they will need to learn a new operating system and create new logins.

    On-premise systems and cloud-based platforms come with inherent differences and considerations

    Another important consideration when looking at implementing new behavioral health technology is the whether the systems require on-premises set-up or operate as a cloud-based platform.

    Here are a few key differences and considerations:

    • On-premises system: For on-premises, a company will need to bring in and set up their own servers and the hospital will need to determine if the servers will need to be set-up on their local network. Additionally, there will need to be upkeep and management of on-site equipment.
    • Cloud-based platform: For cloud-based platforms, there are other considerations when it comes to security. For example, will the new system be able to access patient records and their billing system? Additionally, what is the usability like?

    With all these considerations in mind, it’s clear there’s a lot hospitals must account for when assessing what platform will best support their telehealth for behavioral health needs.

    Technology-neutral partnership means no additional set-up or maintenance

    Working with a technology-neutral partner means health systems don’t need to worry about on-site installation or integrating a brand new cloud based solution. Instead, the partner seamlessly integrates into a hospital’s existing technology. Technology-neutral partners can connect health systems with providers, integrate into existing workflows and systems, without additional set-up and maintenance.

    Being technology-neutral also means that the telehealth partner is well-versed in a variety of equipment and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and can more easily troubleshoot challenges.

    Ted Bryant, Regional Director of Clinical Operations, Iris Telehealth

    We are committed to being technology neutral because we believe that’s how we are able to deliver the best care to our partners’ patients. We have worked with all different types of technology – from the most complex, intuitive, lifelike, robotic cameras to clunky, old monitors. And we can tell you with certainty: no matter what tech you decide to use, it will work.

    A technology-neutral telehealth partner removes the requirement to integrate a new EMR system, provide additional technical support, and manage more equipment.

    These benefits equate to an easier transition to a long-term telehealth program, cost savings, and increased patient and provider satisfaction.

    A supportive partnership that’s technology-neutral removes the pain points of implementation

    Implementing a platform requires ongoing technical support and maintenance – which can become a pain point for health systems.

    That makes partnership with a supportive telehealth organization an essential piece of the puzzle.
    At Iris Telehealth, the support we provide is on-going, helping our own behavioral health providers navigate partner systems, and being there 24/7 for IT support. That way, our providers aren’t utilizing a hospital’s IT team, and the clinicians can have someone to turn to regardless of the time of day.

    Adam Monsen, Director of IT Services at Iris Telehealth

    When we provide support, we all try to have that same positive attitude, knowing that what we’re doing is bigger than ourselves – it’s the whole realm of psychiatry and patient care. That’s why we always try to provide the best service and never try to complain about anything. Anytime someone comes and gives us any specific problems or tickets, we’re happy to help.

    We also provide support through our Clinical Operations Managers (COMs), who are dedicated and work directly with providers. The COMs serve as the first line of support – whether they’re answering charting or EMR questions – our internal team is a lifeline for our clinicians.

    Sean Tominey, Vice President of Enterprise Sales

    Our COMs ensure providers have a lifeline and someone who can answer their questions, so they’re not overtaxing the hospital’s IT or support teams with questions. Every question our COMs receive is one that the hospital doesn’t have to address via their IT or support teams. Any staff you add creates more work for the hospital, with Iris, we provide capacity without increasing demand.

    Next steps with a technology-neutral partner

    If you’d like to learn more about Iris and how your organization can get started with a technology-neutral partner, contact us today to learn more.

    Category: Blog

    Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs) are required to meet a strict set of standards to ensure high-quality, timely care for their patients. But, they don’t have to tackle these exacting standards by themselves. For organizations looking to increase access for their communities and deliver quality behavioral health services, having a partner they can lean on to help track and effectively leverage data can be a strategic benefit.

    In this blog, we’ll look at how a quality-focused, virtual behavioral health partnership can help CCBHCs meet their metrics and set new standards for care in their communities.

    How CCBHCs approach measurement-based care

    CCBHCs leverage required measures to drill down and determine how their organization is performing. These required measures include:

    • Time to services
    • Depression remission at 6 months
    • Depression screenings and follow-up plans
    • Screening for social drivers of health

    Dr. Tracy Mullare, Medical Director of Outpatient Services, Iris Telehealth

    Leveraging evidence-based screenings, which can be embedded easily within the electronic health record, is a nice way to show that patients are improving during their treatment progression. It’s a nice opportunity to engage in treatment planning with patients. Evidence-based screenings can make sure that the applied treatment is improving outcomes as much as possible. I think screening for quality initiatives continuously also helps move quality forward.

    Additionally, CCBHCs are required to have a continuous quality improvement plan in place to address opportunities for improvement.

    For example, if a CCBHC’s average time to service is 25 days, they can drill down and determine the factors affecting the metric, how they compare to national statistics, and what they can do to decrease that number.

    Challenges CCBHCs may face when tracking quality measures

    Tracking and monitoring quality measures is required to keep CCBHC accreditation. However, that’s no easy feat when they must care for all patients regardless of age, diagnosis, or insurance status. With barriers like the provider shortage and available specialists in their area, meeting all patients with quality care isn’t easy.

    Sue Germann, Chief Executive Officer at Pines Behavioral Health

    We went from scheduling intakes to same-day access. We really made sure that we had enough staff to be able to meet that need. That helped us in terms of being able to meet the measures related to how quickly you needed to see someone.

    In addition to ensuring they have enough team members to handle the extra responsibilities , organizations must also provide education to their staff, implement new workflows, and make sure they have a large enough staff to provide screenings and collect and evaluate data.

    To help take on the extra bandwidth, sometimes organizations hire additional help or pivot roles.

    Sue Germann, Chief Executive Officer at Pines Behavioral Health

    Every service we provided had a greater need [after CCBHC certification] – including psychiatric. We connected with Iris right away with a virtual psychiatrist, which was invaluable.

    CCBHCs may also encounter patients with specialty needs and require providers who specialize in specific conditions and treatments. Due to provider shortages and difficulty hiring in their local area, getting that extra help can prove challenging.

    Fortunately, leveraging a virtual behavioral health partner can help CCBHCs achieve increased access to providers and support for quality tracking to meet their required metrics.

    The benefits of a quality-focused partnership

    Virtual behavioral health strategies are a key part of a CCBHCs long-term success. This partnership not only brings in additional providers to help meet demand, but it also supplies extra support to track quality measures.

    This process starts with the CCBHC choosing to share their data with a trusted virtual behavioral health partner, like Iris Telehealth, who then analyses and identifies opportunities for improvement. At Iris, we look at the data of their story and learn how it relates to various factors. For example, if there was a sudden change that lasted three months, we can look at what happened at the point, whether good or bad, and determine what can do it about it or what we can learn to optimize services in the future.

    Yara Nielsenshultz, Executive Director of Quality at Iris Telehealth

    At Iris, we work with many partners across the board, and we learn from them all. Through these partnerships, we’ve built an aggregation of knowledge we can share. For example, if an organization is facing an issue they don’t know how to address, based on what we’ve learned, we can share how another partner of ours solved that same challenge – ultimately, expanding their knowledge base as well.

    Tracking quality metrics puts a lens on an organization’s operations and informs quality improvements. For Iris partners, we’ve been able to help them look at referral cues and wait lists to help determine what needs to happen for patients to be seen in a shorter amount of time.

    We review metrics to ensure we’re using appropriate screenings for suicide, depression, anxiety, and use evidence-based measures to assess and track patient improvements. This process allows us to identify if there needs to be treatment plan revision.

    Chandra Mola, Medical Team Manager at Deschutes County Mental Health

    Due to staffing shortages of psychiatrists and psych NPs, telehealth has been really important for us to have that balance. But even beyond that, as we’ve been able to hire more psychiatrists these last few years, it’s been a good thing to have a balance of in-person and telehealth. Particularly in our rural areas, because oftentimes they don’t have the means to get to clinics.

    We’ve noticed that our no-show rates improve when we have this option [virtual care] available. Ultimately our folks are getting service that is accessible to them and means that we can serve more people and do a better job.

    Implementing virtual behavioral health strategies can help facilitate the following benefits:

    • Expansive staffing
    • Aggregation of quality measures
    • Access to specialists
    • Medical group leadership expertise
    • Robust support

    To learn more about these benefits, be sure to check out our blog from our Medical Director of Outpatient Services, Dr. Tracy Mullare here.

    The role of Iris Telehealth

    At Iris, we have in-depth experience and a vast knowledge base we’ve collected after years of working with CCBHCs. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your organization track quality metrics you’re required to meet, don’t hesitate to reach out – contact us here today.

    Category: Blog

    Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Heather Geis.

    Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

    A. I wanted to do telehealth even before the pandemic. I’m in my sixties, I hadn’t tried it and thought it would be fun. I googled telehealth and Iris kept coming up as one of the best places to work, I contacted them, had an interview, and they hired me. It was very exciting!

    Q. How does telehealth compare to in-person care?

    A. Honestly, it’s very similar. The work is the same. I like that I get to work in a place that has never had a child and adolescent psychiatrist before. I work at a community service board in rural Virginia, and they see a lot of children and adolescent patients, but they’ve never had a child psychiatrist.

    Being in telehealth allows a specialist like me to work in a place that’s never had access to that kind of care before.

    Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

    A. All the virtual meetings and things that happened during the pandemic really helped us because people are a lot more comfortable with telehealth as a care delivery model.

    When I first started, people weren’t as comfortable with it, especially in rural places. However, with the pandemic, a lot of people did virtual school, so telehealth became pretty normal. The more widespread use of virtual platforms has really helped.

    In a way it’s been a benefit to be virtual because people don’t have to worry about running into me at Walmart. There’s more confidentiality to some degree.

    I also feel like I’m more present with the patients because this is all I’m doing, and people are not calling me on the phone or stopping by the office to chat. I’m just with them. In a way, they get more of my attention being virtual.

    Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

    A. I am kind of at the last third of my career. So, I chose to be a contract worker because I work less than I used to. It’s a lot easier to have work-life balance when you’re not full-time. That’s nice and Iris has that option available.

    Another great thing is that you can choose how many hours you want to work. At the CSB, they don’t require me to do on-call. They say, “If you’re available and we need you, that’s great.” They have called me a few times and luckily, I’ve been available, but they don’t expect a call.

    Basically, I work my hours and I’m done. That of course helps with work life balance, too.

    Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

    A. Getting to work with people that would not ordinarily have access to my specialty is the most rewarding thing, but always helping patients is very rewarding in and of itself.

    Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

    A. Iris staff are very supportive. If I need anything, they’re always immediately available. When I first started, it seemed like I was calling tech support all the time, but I haven’t called them in a long time, so I guess I’ve figured it out.

    But when you’re new and not figuring things out, they’re very helpful and available. They are a great team of people and they’re very supportive and engaging.

    Q. Why do you think telehealth is important to the future of mental healthcare?

    A. With the pandemic, I think we’re all more germ conscious too, so that’s certainly a benefit to the patient and the provider.

    With telehealth, patients can connect with specialists they would ordinarily not be able to access.

    We also don’t have to spend time commuting; we get to spend more time with patients. It affords a good work-life balance due to the flexibility of hours where you’re able to work in different time zones.

    I’m an early bird, so I chose to work in Eastern time zone. I’m a Central time zone person, but Iris worked with me, and we were able to match my diurnal preferences with work sites. That’s been great for me because I get done early and start early. That’s a wonderful thing from a provider perspective.

    Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

    A. There are a lot of ways to do it, for me, I signed up with a company. They deal with the contracts; they deal with the front-end issues. They spend a lot of time working with the clinics and making sure they’re providing the equipment and personnel needed, and they’re able to troubleshoot.

    I really haven’t had any problems with my clinic, but I know, they’ve always told me, “If you have a trouble, we can help be an advocate for your needs.” I think working with a company is definitely very wise.

    At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Geis. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

    Category: Blog

    In many rural areas across the U.S., and even in a lot of urban areas, there’s a significant lack of access to psychiatry or behavioral health services in general. Partially due to the ongoing (and worsening) psychiatry shortage, many healthcare organizations find it difficult to locate high-quality, local behavioral health providers to serve their communities.

    Those challenges compound when an organization needs more specialized care — like bilingual providers or providers who specialize in working with children or older populations. Fortunately, virtual behavioral health services can go a long way toward filling those care gaps.

    In this piece, we’ll break down how telehealth can benefit shortage areas across the country, what challenges your healthcare organization might face in implementing virtual behavioral health services, and best practices that will set you up for success.

    What is a shortage area?

    Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) is a federal designation that identifies an area as having a geographic shortage, which means there’s a shortage of providers for everyone in a defined geographic area.

    There are also population-based shortages areas — Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) or Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs), which signify a shortage of providers for a specific group of people — for example, migrant farmworkers or low-income patients. Organizations that qualify as facility HPSAs include public hospitals or nonprofit outpatient centers, correctional facilities, state mental health hospitals, and FQHCs.

    Virtual behavioral health can provide critical behavioral health support to shortage areas

    Shortage areas or HPSAs may be a particularly good fit for virtual behavioral health services programs because they are disproportionately affected by the national psychiatrist shortage.

    Dr. Tracy Mullare, Medical Director of Outpatient Services, Iris Telehealth

    These challenges [of the provider shortage] have affected children across the board, and those in rural areas have been particularly affected. Given this population’s proximity to mental health resources and other unique barriers like transportation and economic hardship, getting behavioral health support isn’t always possible.

    Healthcare organizations in HSPAs are often unable to have an in-person provider on staff for their care setting, but through telehealth, they can access quality providers from across the country. Without utilizing virtual behavioral health services, organizations will often find themselves with long wait times — or without care entirely.

    Having access to clinicians all over the country who can provide excellent care quickly and conveniently is a significant benefit for these organizations.

    The American Psychiatric Association

    Telepsychiatry’s evidence base – including outreach to rural and remote areas – is substantial in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and now in many war-torn parts of the world. Care to these underserved patients and communities has been one of the best successes of telemedicine. Outcomes have been positive in terms of satisfaction, validity/reliability, and clinical care relative to in-person care.

    Virtual behavioral health can also open up access to providers with specific specialties that would otherwise be nearly impossible for healthcare organizations in HPSAs to staff. For example, in communities where the prominent language spoken isn’t English, having access to a telehealth provider who speaks that language is a huge benefit to patients as it enables them to see someone who they feel they can connect with.

    Additionally, some providers specialize in behavioral healthcare for LGBTQIA+ patients or other specific patient populations. It can be hugely beneficial to have access to someone who is an expert in that area.

    Through telehealth, your organization can access those specialties and fill gaps you can’t fill through your local provider network.

    Challenges and considerations for implementing telehealth programs in HPSAs

    Whenever your organization begins the process of searching for a virtual behavioral health provider, it might be difficult to find the right fit for your community. It’s important to make sure any potential providers understand the culture of your area and can work effectively with your specific patient populations.

    Dr. Kavita Vasu, Iris Telehealth Provider

    For underserved communities, they may have waited months for a specialty provider or had to travel somewhere else. Telepsychiatry bridges that gap, where they can see a specialist sooner and don’t have to travel as much. It’s nice that people in those communities can be served through telepsychiatry.

    Working with a telehealth vendor, like Iris Telehealth, can be beneficial through that process as they have in-depth knowledge and experience with identifying, interviewing, and matching providers who would be a good fit for your community and your organization.

    Initially, your organization may also face challenges in locating adequate funding for your telepsychiatry program. However, there is no shortage of federal grants available to help bring any necessary resources or technology to your community — you just need to make sure you consider the time it could take to apply for and receive that grant funding.

    Some good grant resources to keep an eye on include:

    • Rural Health Information Hub: RHIhub keeps an active list of all funding opportunities for all U.S. states and territories. If your organization is located in a rural area, this will be a great resource for current and future grants.
    • SAMHSA: SAMHSA keeps a comprehensive list of grants for the improvement of quality and availability of substance use and mental health treatment services.
    • Grants.gov: Grants.gov is the largest repository of federal grants for healthcare organizations across the country.

    Setting your telehealth program up for success

    Regardless of where your organization is located, there are certain steps you can take to help ensure the long-term success of your telepsychiatry program:

    1. Train and educate your staff: Training your staff on specific systems or processes you may need to implement for your telehealth program can seem daunting at first, but it’s an important step to ensure you have the buy-in from your team to launch a successful program. As you walk them through any changes that might come with your new program, remember there are many resources available to help train your staff on how to work with specific technologies. Start by reaching out to your local telehealth resource center to learn more.
    2. Work with a dedicated telehealth partner: If the prospect of launching your program and staffing it with telepsychiatry providers seems overwhelming, it may be a good idea for your organization to reach out to a company like Iris, who can help you set up your program from the ground up.
    3. Educate yourself and your staff on how federal and state policies apply to you: It’s important to make sure your organization is aware of how billing and reimbursement policies affect your telepsychiatry program. And remember, there’s no shortage of evidence that patients like having access to telehealth services.

    No matter what stage you’re in with your telehealth program, support is out there to help you build a program that provides life-saving access to behavioral health services for your community.

    If you’re looking for highly qualified, compassionate behavioral health clinicians with experience working in shortage areas, Iris Telehealth can help. Contact us for more information about building an effective telehealth program.

    Category: Blog

    Each day in IT is different, especially at Iris Telehealth where our team is responsible for supporting both clinicians and corporate team members. Their care and personability, alongside their in-depth technical expertise, sets them apart and creates exceptional experiences for the clinical and corporate sides of the house.

    In this piece, we’ll take a look at some of the key duties and workflows our IT team puts in place to support our mission of creating a better world through healthy minds.

    The mission of the IT team

    Our IT team is multifaced. Through clinician support, IT creates reliability and confidence that providers will always have someone to turn to for technical support. In turn, our partners and their patients can depend on uninterrupted care and support.

    For our Iris team members, this team supports workflows, efficiencies, and makes sure they have what they need to support our partners and clinicians. 

    Adam Monsen, Director of IT Services at Iris Telehealth

    When we provide support, we all try to have that same positive attitude, knowing that what we’re doing is bigger than ourselves – it’s the whole realm of psychiatry and patient care. That’s why we always try to provide the best service and never try to complain about anything. Anytime someone comes and gives us any specific problems or tickets, we’re happy to help.

    The IT team works 24/7 to support our services. For example, for Iris’s On-Demand Services line, providers may need assistance at all hours of the night and into the early morning. Our IT team is there to answer the call and make sure they have the support they need to keep seeing patients.

    On a daily basis, this team is communicating with team members, assisting with tickets, and setting up orientations for providers and new corporate employees. They’re also helping build laptops for new team members and sending out emergency laptops when needed.

    They’re also consistently monitoring security, doing regular health checks, and making sure everyone can do their jobs efficiently. Additionally, this team is also looking at the various licenses our team’s leverage to ensure they’re being utilized efficiently and look at ways to cut costs.

    Over the last few years, this team has saved the company significant spending costs by cutting licenses and transiting into different software and merging applications. This consistent monitoring helps ensure the most efficient workflows and the best outcomes for our teams.

    Top notch support for providers and organizations

    One of the primary goals of the IT team is to set our providers up for success and ensure they know they have someone to rely on whenever they have a technical challenge. For Iris providers, the goal is to support their technical needs so they can focus on what they do best – providing high-quality patient care.

    Regardless of how tech savvy a provider may be, the IT team views it as their job to make the provider feel comfortable. That’s why, during the resolution process, the IT team makes sure to give updates on progress to help ease the provider’s minds and allow them to continue doing their work without worry of a lingering technical problem.

    Dr. Jean Oelschlager, Iris Telehealth Provider

    I was texting the IT team early in the morning, ‘This isn’t working, and I have patients starting at this time. I need help right away.’ Then, within minutes I was getting help. That’s been consistent because it’s happened several times.

    I’m not a tech guru by any means, and that’s probably my greatest anxiety is wondering, ‘What’s going to happen with the computer? Or, is there going to be some upgrade or downgrade?’ The IT staff have been wonderful.

    On the partner side, our IT team ensure Iris providers have minimal downtime. For example, if a provider is encountering technical challenges with their laptop that can’t be solved with extensive troubleshooting, they quickly build a new laptop and send it to the provider overnight.

    Adam Monsen, Director of IT Services at Iris Telehealth

    I feel that we are one of the best IT teams, not just in psychiatry, but in general. That’s because we are so quick to respond, attentive, and caring. We encourage people to send in a ticket. We want them to feel that we’re their friend, we’re here for them no matter what. That’s it. I think that’s the huge benefit to our IT team.

    This level of support also takes the pressure off our partner’s shoulders. They can rely on our team to ensure our providers have the technical support they need, without tying up their in-house IT department.

    Measurements of success

    Most recently, the IT team was required to onboard two large groups of providers at one time. This process required coordination, laptop builds, answering calls, and managing a large surge of provider orientations. They handled everything seamlessly and our providers were able to get going without technical hang-ups.

    Here are a few of their accomplishments over the last year:

    • 3,000 tickets resolved
    • Over 180 laptops built and replaced
    • 99% satisfaction rate among Iris providers and team members

    Additionally, this team maintains a 95-percentile rate for Service Level Agreement (SLA). That means if there are 500 tickets in a month, only 3-4% of tickets in responding or resolving quickly were violated. The remaining are answered or receive a response within the hour. 

    Learn more about our support pillars

    If you’d like to learn more about the technical side of implementing telehealth into your organization, contact us today.

    Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about the support our teams provide, you can view additional spotlights here:

    At Iris, we’re proud to collaborate with our partners to help them succeed and be prepared for any challenges they may face in their day-to-day operations.

    Category: Blog

    Ten years ago, helping healthcare organizations understand virtual workflows and virtual care pathways was much more complicated than it is today. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of virtual care across all medical specialties and primary care has been critical, especially in behavioral health.

    Today, behavioral health usage rates remain high. At Iris Telehealth, it’s not unusual for our partners to use telehealth 50-75% of the time for behavioral health care services. Everyone is used to telehealth.

    That means, rather than primarily focusing on connecting and seeing patients (the core of virtual care), we’re now able to focus on emerging workflows that enable analytics that track no-show rates, billing and coding patterns, and patient engagement.

    One area where we’ve seen a high opportunity for workflow improvement and high impact on patient outcomes is leveraging virtual care in the inpatient psychiatric unit.

    The reality of behavioral health care in the health system

    Behavioral health patients seeking care for urgent issues and experiencing long wait times in the health system is nothing new. That’s because many hospitals don’t have access to behavioral health resources. When they don’t have this access, they leverage social workers for care coordination, therapy, and patient support.

    If a patient comes in with cardiac or lung issues, you want them to meet with a provider with the appropriate skill set and knowledge to assess them based on their presentation. Many emergency departments have excellent providers who have been able to treat behavioral health patients, but nowadays the acuity is much higher.

    Access to inpatient treatment for patients who might be manic, psychotic, or experiencing withdrawal can be challenging – and it may not always be easy and efficient to direct them to the appropriate hospital bed or step-down unit.

    That’s where we’re finding that, for many health systems, the emergency department is becoming like an inpatient unit. For organizations that partner with a telehealth solution like ours, patients can be seen by a psychiatrist or a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) in less than an hour of when they present to the ED.

    From there, we can work with the ED staff on starting or restarting necessary medications or guiding the course of treatment – which makes for a better patient experience and smoother workflows for the on-site care teams.

    In-person care verses virtual in inpatient psychiatric units

    Through our partnerships with major hospitals and health systems across the country, we have found that hospitals and inpatient psychiatric units that have adopted workflows enable virtual care work very well.

    When working with an organization, we like to learn about their culture around telehealth. We learn about their history and how they’ve embraced telehealth in the past.

    It’s important for organizations to consider that the quality of an in-person provider isn’t necessarily better than that of a virtual care provider. We can get high-quality providers who want to work from their homes and virtually go into the inpatient psychiatry unit and ED, allowing patients to experience the high-quality care and professionalism they need and deserve.

    Also, hospitals can have long-term virtual care providers seeing patients on inpatient units and engaging in rounding, team meetings, consults, and admitting/discharging patients.

    A virtual behavioral health provider can be just as accessible throughout the day as an in-person provider. While you can’t knock on their door, you can send them a note through an instant messaging platform, text, or even call them on the phone just like an in-person provider.

    There are many clinical duties on inpatient psychiatry units that require in-person support such as psych techs, nurses, and staff for things like lab draws and physical exams. However, in terms of behavioral health specialists, virtual providers can facilitate care that is as good as, or better than, in-person providers an organization might be able to recruit.

    The key to integrating virtual and in-person providers

    No matter the level of clinical care, trusting your team members is key, and that means spending time together. It’s important to note that being virtual doesn’t mean a provider is sitting at home doing nothing—it’s more like they’re in an office or a hospital next door. They may be 500 miles away, but they’re still available and responsive to patient and staff needs and questions.

    For example, a nurse might have a question, or a patient might need to be seen twice or more during the day for something like an exacerbation of symptoms, possible side effects, or requesting to leave. In such cases a virtual provider would come back on video to see the patient and discuss concerns with the onsite team or even gather more collateral from family.

    An on-site provider might be in a different location, stuck in traffic, and unavailable. However, a virtual provider can transcend those geographic barriers and see patients quickly with little if any delay.

    Virtual care lends itself to collaboration and integration with on-site teams quite well. It allows for flexible, timely, and patient-centered care.

    Virtual behavioral health programs and inpatient care

    Continuity of care is critical to the patient experience. When you’re working with complex patients, it’s important to try and have continuity of care with the techs working around them and the nurses that can know and understand the nuances of their behavior.

    With a solution like Scheduled Services, which is Iris’s approach to delivering virtual care, you have a provider working in the same units day after day — or being a part of the weeknight and weekend call teams and rounding team.

    Building up the sense of continuity with the team and having that trust, consistency of care, and communication with patients in their behavioral health journey in the acute setting is very important.

    Generally, our providers work on inpatient units just as an in-person provider would, though virtually. They have the same meetings, experiences with patients, and communication with the care team – all to help build that continuity.

    The financial benefits of virtual behavioral health programs

    There are also benefits of virtual behavioral health programs that lead to better financial outcomes. For example, by treating behavioral health, patients receive more holistic care that helps treat physical conditions in tandem, better improving total cost of care and reducing length of stay.

    Additionally, having a virtual behavioral health solution in place can help improve ED throughput and ensure patients aren’t staying in the hospital longer than necessary.

    There have also been recent policy shifts that have created major evolutions in how CMS and congress are working to look at virtual care reimbursement. It’s been more progressive than anything I’ve seen in my last 30 years of being in this field.

    Change doesn’t happen a lot in medicine, but the recent changes to promote virtual access to care, particularly for people with mental health and substance use disorder issues, have been impressive and a huge win for patients and providers alike.

    The future of behavioral health care

    It’s important to challenge the myth that having someone on-site is better or necessary. Healthcare is moving away from care being solely driven by what happens in a brick and mortar facility.

    In the future, not only will providers be working from home, but they’re also going to be seeing acute patients in the patient’s homes–patients who might otherwise have been hospitalized—in the emerging “hospital at home” and “remote patient monitoring” models that lend themselves quite naturally to virtual care.

    Virtual care is helping the healthcare industry rethink our models and how we care for patients, both in acute care settings like inpatient units and partial hospital programs. Across the spectrum of care, virtual care continues to impact patients’ lives in ways that those of us in behavioral health care can really see.

    If you’d like to learn more about how Iris Telehealth can integrate virtual behavioral health programs into your hospital or health system, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact us here or check out this page to learn more about Scheduled Services.

    Category: Blog

    Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Betty Bell, one of our incredible LCSWs.     

    Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider? 

    A. It was about three years ago when I moved to Minnesota. I was flipping through the internet, saw a job opportunity, and applied for it. I didn’t think I’d like telehealth because I liked the in-person connection. However, I did a lot of research and saw that telehealth is just as effective as in-person care, especially with some of the modalities I use in therapy. I decided to try it, and I really like it. 

    Q. How does teletherapy compare to in-person care?  

    A. I specialize in trauma. I work with a lot of individuals that have trauma, and EMDR has been very effective. I researched before I took the job because I wanted to make sure I could serve the clients I work with, and the research said it was effective.  

    I use bilateral music stimulations instead of tapping or other devices that can be used in this treatment. Those have been effective. Patients have been able to use those outside of sessions as well. It’s light music with bilateral stimulations in it, which helps them process. 

    Telehealth is an asset, especially when patients live in a city where they struggle with transportation or stay home with their kids. They don’t have to load up the children and then drop them off at daycare or go to therapy. They’re able to get services right within their home. 

    A lot of times when I work with people, that’s their safe place. That’s where they feel comfortable.  

    I think telehealth creates fewer barriers for them to get therapy versus in-person – in-person takes gas to get there and pre-scheduling – telehealth saves a lot of time out of the patient’s day. 

    Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually? 

    A. I firmly believe that building rapport right out of the gate is key in therapy. As we’re talking and communicating, if there’s anything that the patient’s not feeling comfortable with or they don’t think we have a connection, I ask them to let me know right away so we can connect them to someone they connect with.   

    Because a lot of times in therapy, if you don’t have that rapport and connection, it’s not going to be as effective. We usually talk about that right away. I haven’t had anyone that didn’t like that approach. I meet them where they’re at, start with a basic conversation, and then build a connection that way. And then things lead into more details of the things they’re experiencing. 

    Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance? 

    A. I’m in my later forties, and I remember being a social worker in my twenties, where stress was more impactful. What I’m finding as I am older is that therapy is my passion. It doesn’t feel like work. It’s my calling – it’s what I’ve chosen to do. 

    A lot of the times, with the people we serve, if they cross my mind outside the session, I’ll send them positive vibes, healing, or great thoughts. But I don’t take a lot of work home. I also exercise, get massages, and do a lot of self-care outside of the session, which also helps. It makes a difference when this work is what you’re called to do. 

    Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job? 

    A. I had a client who crossed my mind, and I couldn’t remember her name. Sometimes, it gets tricky, and suddenly, her name crosses my mind. Two weeks later, she messaged me. I didn’t have her contact information, but she remembered my number. That was pretty cool. 

    I got to ask, “Hey, how are you?” “Are you still in this location?” “How are the kids?” We briefly touched base, and she’s doing well.  

    She’s stayed in the community for three years. She is working, and her sons seem to be thriving. Before, they were struggling with homelessness. She struggled with addiction issues, and her mental health was pretty poor.  

    The power of connection is really what therapy is all about. So, having a patient cross your mind and then suddenly they find you and reach out. That was amazing to me. 

    Q. What do you love about working with Iris?  

    A. Iris has created a platform where you’re connected to an agency where there’s a connection. That’s powerful. I adore the agency that I’m placed with. It’s in a different state, and they have a different community, and I really embrace that and enjoy that.  

    I’ve worked with Iris for about two and a half years and have all the support I need. My supervisor’s a phone call, text, or message away. We meet on a regular basis. I get all the training I need.  

    I can’t say enough about my connection with the agency where they placed me. I adore my supervisor there. They’re so supportive and appreciative. She often just says, “I appreciate you,” and I’ll tell you, that goes miles.  

    I wouldn’t really work for Iris or even the agency I was placed with if I didn’t have those connections and that support and that extra training. I’ve been really pleased with even the environment. It’s been very positive, not negative. It’s really a great place to work. I’ve been very pleased. 

    Q. Why do you think teletherapy is important to the future of mental healthcare? 

    A. COVID-19 brought a lot of good things, even though it was a difficult time as well. Telehealth became even more important during that time when people were isolated.  

    They couldn’t connect to services they probably needed. I think it opened a window for therapists.  

    I think telehealth is here to stay. The way you can network between states – you can be in one state and be licensed to provide care in another state – the connections you can make are so powerful.  

    When I talk to some of my clients, the chances of us meeting are like zero, but we get to be a part of each other’s journey and experience. Telehealth has opened a vast area for not only our clients, but for our professionals. It’s pretty exciting to watch. 

    Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth? 

    A. Embrace it and roll with the process. At first, I remember I was kind of nervous. Like, “Am I going to be able to keep up with the computer or network? It just seems like everything fell into place and I always had IT support.  

    They’re always a phone call away, and even sometimes the clients will get maybe anxious, like, “I can’t hear you very well,” so we’ll adjust or maneuver things. But again, it’s just part of the process.  

    So just embracing it and working with whatever obstacles may come. I think that you’re going to be able to see the fruition as you continue to just be relaxed and follow the process. I’m sold on it.  

    At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Betty Bell. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today. 

    Category: Blog

    Depressive disorder is the most common cause of hospitalization among patients under age 18. However, the shortage of behavioral health providers in this setting makes meeting patients with timely care challenging.

    study from the Mayo Clinic found that, of 2,300 U.S. hospitals surveyed, 54% had no psychiatrist on staff or available for medical ED or inpatient consultations. When admissions for active psychiatric patients were needed, 59% of hospitals transferred them to another hospital – creating leakage within the health system.

    For patients who stay within the hospital system and need care over 30 days, Beckers Healthcare highlights that it can create additional healthcare costs of $2,265 per stay. 

    However, effective and efficient behavioral health integration can help decrease costs and improve patient experience. In their annual Environmental Scan, the American Hospital Association (AHA), shares that an inpatient integrated behavioral health model resulted in a 159% return on investment, and a study of six primary care practices found integration reduced ED visits by 14.2%. 

    Integrating virtual care partnerships to support inpatient psychiatric units offers a simple solution to a complicated problem and helps keep patients from falling through care gaps. By bringing in a virtual behavioral health provider, patients can get the care they need, health systems can avoid leakage, and provider time can be used more effectively.

    Integrating virtual care into the inpatient psychiatric unit

    Making virtual care available in your inpatient psychiatric unit, your health system can alleviate staffing challenges, transform the patient and provider experience, and assist their on-site providers with behavioral health clinicians.

    Teams are connected with a dedicated provider who serves the hospital on a consistent basis each week.

    The American Hospital Association

    Virtual care technology saves patients time and money, reduces patient transfers, emergency department and urgent care center visits, and delivers savings to payers. In addition, telehealth helps address physician burnout by reducing clinicians’ drive times and allowing more time for patients.

    Virtual behavioral health care allows organizations to recruit from a larger pool of providers than they might not otherwise have access to in their geographic region. This capability allows patients to get the quality care they need for complex behavioral health conditions.

    We call our virtual solution for this Scheduled Services, which ensures access to high-quality behavioral health providers who are dedicated to our partner healthcare organizations on a consistent schedule and are matched to the needs of their communities and care teams. This approach creates continuity of care for patients with complex behavioral health conditions. Additionally, virtual behavioral health providers have flexibility and can provide the same consistency that an on-site provider can and doesn’t position patients to have to repeatedly tell their stories.

    Virtual behavioral health providers can round virtually and work weekends and nights – whenever care is needed. This flexibility also enables care team integration and allows providers to attend team meetings and be available to other clinicians just as they would if they were in-person. Virtual providers can collaborate, join team huddles, and consult with their team.

    The benefits of a virtual provider solution  

    Virtual behavioral health solutions help patients get seen more quickly, reduce expenses, and help promote quality care for patients who might otherwise be left waiting for treatment or end up back in the emergency department.

    When determining who to partner with for a virtual behavioral health solution, it’s important to consider what other supports come along with the addition of a provider.

    At Iris Telehealth, we pride ourselves on the support we provide to our partners to make sure they’re matched with a provider who has the right skillset and knowledge to treat the level of acuity they see within their inpatient units. We also provide clinical alignment executives who support and serve as a primary point of contact for our partners.

    Laura Taylor, Program Director of Psychiatry at Carilion Clinic, Iris Telehealth Partner

    Working with well-informed individuals who know exactly what to do, have had that experience, and can offer solutions while listening to needs. That’s what I’ve enjoyed so much about my relationship with Shannon [Iris Telehealth CAE].

    These pillars of support also extend to help with licensing and credentialing as well as quality management services to ensure our providers are helping organizations meet their key behavioral health goals.

    Treating behavioral health patients in the inpatient unit is no easy task, but we do our best to support each organization so they can experience the benefits of a virtual behavioral health solution.

    How virtual behavioral health enables continuity of care

    When a patient can’t get the care they need, when they need it, they may end up leaving the health system and going somewhere else for care. This potential for leakage is costly and creates a poor experience for patients.

    When a health system has a behavioral health specialist readily available, the patient’s chance of being seen quickly increases. They receive proper evaluation and lessen their risk of their symptoms becoming exacerbated.

    Additionally, in-person care may not meet demand in the same way a virtual solution can. There are several barriers an in-person provider may encounter versus someone working virtually. For example, while weather or traffic could keep a provider from making it into the unit, a virtual provider has consistent flexibility that supports a consistent schedule.

    Laura Taylor, Program Director of Psychiatry at Carilion Clinic, Iris Telehealth Partner

    To have an established Iris Telehealth provider was incredibly important because it created reliability on the unit. We knew exactly what we were working with when we had the physician. She was very reliable, and it created continuity of care.

    Patients may need to be seen again and having a provider they know, trust, and can count on, can make all the difference in their care. Helping provide care to patients that’s high-quality and specialized can help them experience better outcomes and build trust with your organization.

    How to get started with Scheduled Services

    At Iris, we’re proud of the level of care we provide to patients. That’s why we have a 97% average patient satisfaction rate and a 92% partner retention rate. Additionally, our commitment to quality has helped us gain Joint Commission accreditation. We’ve treated 2.3M+ patients and counting and we’re eager to see how we can help those in your community get the behavioral health care they need and deserve.

    If you’d like to learn more about how Scheduled Services can be integrated into your health system, don’t hesitate to reach out today. Contact us here for more information.

    Category: Blog

    Today, many traditional care models remain siloed and fall short of whole-person-centered care that addresses both behavioral and physical health conditions – and how they impact each other. Emerging healthcare models, including virtual care and the expansion of digital health tools, seek to integrate value, quality, and access while keeping the patient journey and experience top-of-mind.

    In this piece, I’ll share insights on why Behavioral Health Integration (BHI) is central to patient and provider satisfaction, the potential challenges and benefits of this approach, and what BHI looks like in practice.

    The role of behavioral health in primary care

    Behavioral health factors have a strong influence on patient morbidity and mortality.

    In fact, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, as many as 75% of primary care visits include mental or behavioral health components. And, 67% of adults with a behavioral health condition do not receive appropriate treatment.

    In the face of nationwide psychiatrist shortages, primary care providers (PCPs) are often positioned as the first-line of behavioral health care for their patients. However, while PCPs often want to know more about behavioral health and how to care for their patients, they don’t always have the time or specialization to treat more complex cases.

    That’s because treating a behavioral health condition doesn’t always have a clear or obvious path for medication and treatment. However, by leveraging a virtual behavioral health solution, PCPs can ensure their patients are getting the help they need and healthcare organizations can ensure financially sustainable delivery of behavioral health services.

    The financial benefits of Behavioral Health Integration

    According to a Briefing Series on the Role of Psychology in Health Care by the American Psychological Association, the interconnection of behavioral health and physical health can have a profound impact on total cost of care:

    • Behavioral health conditions like anxiety and depression can worsen chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and cancer.
    • Research shows treatment of behavioral health conditions in primary care settings offset costs by 20-40%. 
    • Research also shows fewer hospitalizations that result in significant cost reductions for patients with comorbidities and improvement in treatment adherence, translating to $105 billion in annual avoidable health care costs.

    To add to these numbers, in a behavioral health analysis by Evernorth Health Services, treating behavioral health conditions in outpatient care is directly tied with a reduction in medical and pharmacy costs — with savings up to $2,565 per person over 15 months following a diagnosis and up to $3,321 per person over 27 months following a diagnosis.

    These numbers show us that primary care providers shouldn’t face the burden of providing behavioral health services alone. And they don’t have to. With the help of a behavioral health specialist, their organizations can generate savings and their patients can experience superior outcomes.

    Challenges and solutions organizations may face when implementing collaborative care

    While behavioral health integration delivers clear benefits for your patients, care team, and PCPs, achieving it isn’t without its challenges. Some of the most common challenges we’ve heard from healthcare organizations include:

    1. Long wait times for behavioral health providers: Providing timely access to care for mid-to-high acuity behavioral health conditions can be challenging. For example, if a patient needs medication management from a psychiatrist, wait times can often be too long. However, if a provider is integrated into a practice, seeing a SUD therapist, for example, may be quicker.
    2. Greater level of assessment required: While PCPs take on the majority of behavioral health patients, sometimes the level of assessment is greater than what they can provide. While there’s no easy button, integrated care, even at a small level, can get the ball rolling.
    3. Relying entirely on in-person care: In-person care is still the gold standard of care. However, by trying to rely on in-person care models alone, it can be challenging to get the right resources, at the right time, in a financially scalable way. Many organizations face insurmountable challenges recruiting onsite providers for some of their rural and urban settings. Virtual care transcends city, county, and state barriers, so patients have access to care regardless of location.
    4. Triage and care navigation challenges: These approaches can be a challenge and lead to too much responsibility for the primary care provider. Primary care providers need help from the right behavioral health specialists for their most complex patients, and they need it in a timely manner. Partnering with virtual care providers in the navigation process can take additional burdens off patients and PCPs.

    How Bridge Care Services Enables Behavioral Health Integration

    For health systems looking to implement integrated behavioral health services, Bridge Care Services ensures the patients who need care first get care first – while being efficiently directed to an appropriate care plan.

    Bridge Care Services leverages virtual care and an evidence-based care model to ensure patients that need escalation from primary care receive timely access to high-quality behavioral care, including therapy, medication management, or both.

    This approach fills gaps in ambulatory and post-acute behavioral health care for patients, helping health systems achieve measurement-based outcomes and optimizing reimbursement for a financially sustainable behavioral health program. 

    With Bridge Care Services, the pathway begins with a billable biopsychosocial needs assessment delivered by a licensed therapy provider within seven days of a patient’s discharge. The provider then determines the appropriate behavioral health specialist to manage the patient’s care needs with counseling, medication management, or both.

    The care navigation and therapeutic support from this approach alleviate the burden on the health system’s resources using a cost-effective process that closes referrals to specialists sooner and returns patients to community providers when available.

    Behavioral Health Integration at Iris Telehealth

    The demand for virtual behavioral health services will continue to grow, fueled by patient needs, psychiatrist shortages, and the emphasis on integrated care.

    Providers who embrace these services will not only improve the timeliness of the behavioral health care they deliver, the health of their patients, and their own work satisfaction, but will also ensure their viability in a new world of consumer-centric healthcare.

    If you’d like to learn more about Iris Telehealth and how can help your health care organization implement Behavioral Health Integration into your practice, feel free to reach out today.