Telepsychiatry Companies

Tag Archives: Best Practices

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!

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    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.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    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.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    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.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    Striking the right balance between prioritizing quality patient care and managing everyday leadership tasks is pivotal for healthcare organizations. But it’s not always easy. Hospitals and clinics have safety and quality metrics they must report on, and sometimes it’s unclear who’s responsible and whether they have the training and skills to do that type of work.

    During my years at Iris, I’ve seen many clinics promote staff members into leadership positions based on seniority rather than on that person having experience in leadership or administration. That’s where leveraging an Iris provider as a virtual medical director for a behavioral health program can be a great move.

    Our providers are integrated into the organizations in which they see patients. They know the staff, the patients, and the clinical challenges that the organization faces, but they can also be involved in higher-level discussions and the administrative decision-making and leadership required for clinics to maintain safety and quality reporting.

    In this article, I’ll share some of my insights into how leveraging a virtual medical director works, the benefits they can bring to an organization, and how on-site teams can build trust with a virtual medical director.

    How leveraging a virtual medical director works

    In many places across the country, our providers serve as virtual medical directors as well as behavioral health providers. Generally, the hours are divided so the providers and staff can know which hat is being worn when.

    For example, we carve out administrative time with regular meeting cadences to meet with staff and go over things like policy reviews, safety incidences, and quality metrics – and perform supervisory services when needed. That provider will also have clinical hours where they deliver psychiatric services to patients through regular appointments.

    It’s important to delineate how the provider uses their hours each day to prevent confusion. There are always a lot of patients to see, so the medical director may not have the time to do the administrative work if it’s not scheduled. Setting goals, having a solid job description and expectations, and protecting time for weekly administrative and leadership meetings are essential to success in the medical director’s role.

    How to build trust between an on-site staff and virtual medical director

    The way humans interact is really changing. While the gold standard in healthcare has been in-person care, on-site behavioral health services aren’t always available — this became painfully apparent during the pandemic. Not only did clinics and hospitals need more providers to serve the surge of patients seeking behavioral healthcare, they needed new leadership models and staffing structures.

    Telemedicine enabled us to serve so many clinics and hospitals around the country, but coming out of the pandemic, we also knew that being an organization that clinics and hospitals could trust to do virtual care well was important. We were able to demonstrate that finding a virtual behavioral health provider who can be a leader and who truly cares about your community and your clinic helps build that trust – even if they’re three or four states away.

    At Iris, we’ve found the key to building that trust is open, honest, and transparent communication — it’s at the core of everything we do. We get to know the on-site team members on a first-name basis and become comfortable with each other clinically, professionally, and personally. Our goal is for our virtual behavioral health providers to be as accessible as any on-site provider might be — that’s one of the ways to build trust.

    As a provider, I’ve also found making yourself available online, just as you would in person, is helpful for building trust and engagement with an on-site team.

    For example, leaving your office door cracked is the universal sign that you’re available to staff when you’re not with a patient. With virtual care, leaving your video on between patients or meetings allows staff to virtually pop in and say “hi” or ask a question related to patient care. So even if you’re on a screen, the on-site staff feel like you’re present. That’s the quality and integrity of the interactions we strive for at Iris.

    How to set your virtual medical director up for success

    Setting up your medical director for success involves developing clear goals and objectives as well as clear boundaries.

    A few questions we’ve found helpful to ask in this process are:

    • How many hours will your medical director need for the administrative function?
    • Who held this role before? What were their challenges? Why did they leave?
    • What are the expectations of this role?
    • What meetings, supervision, and oversight are required in this role?
    • What would success in this role look like to your team?

    We’ve helped many organizations develop job descriptions to help them answer these questions as they pertain to their unique clinical workflow and staffing matrix.

    For example, a remote medical director might be responsible for working with the Chief Financial Officer or operations team. They might need to put together presentations to demonstrate the safety and quality initiatives your organization is tracking and how your organization responds to – and measures the success of – new initiatives.

    Additionally, there are financial metrics, quality reports, coding, and all sorts of things a virtual medical director is regularly reviewing.

    Breaking down the responsibilities of a virtual medical director

    A medical director’s role is really focused on directing the clinical delivery of care and the quality, safety, and integrity of that care so patients get the help they need and providers get the support they need. This can be done through virtual leadership just as easily as through traditional on-site leadership.

    In my experience, supporting teams of providers – including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and therapists –is very meaningful whether it is done in person or virtually.

    Medical directors can be a sounding board for providers to bounce ideas off of as well as a resource for dealing with challenging clinical cases. Behavioral health patients can have high levels of acuity and sometimes have needs that providers can’t meet, so supporting colleagues and staff in their efforts to deal with dissatisfied patients can be very helpful.

    Again, such support can be offered virtually by a medical director just as it might be done in person.

    Where Iris Telehealth fits in

    By working with a virtual care provider like Iris, your organization has a larger pool of providers to draw from. Whether you have a small office or a large clinic that needs help finding a medical director, we can help you find one that your staff and patients will enjoy working with.

    If you’d like to learn more about our experience matching organizations with a virtual medical director, be sure to read through our case study from Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare in Virginia. You can read the full piece here.

    If you‘d like to talk to someone about potentially hiring a medical director, be sure to contact us today. We’d be happy to talk through the process and learn more about your needs.

    Dr. Tom Milam manages our team of clinicians and guides them in telemedicine and industry best practices. He received his undergraduate degree from WVU in Anthropology, graduating summa cum laude, and received his M.D. from the University of Virginia. His residency training in psychiatry took place at Duke and UVA. Dr. Milam has served in a leadership role throughout his psychiatric career and spearheaded the telepsychiatry initiative at his previous hospital.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    Quality management is paramount to making sure you stay on track with your behavioral health goals.

    Let’s take a look at how to define quality management, the benefits of quality management, and quality initiatives your organization can put into action.

    The importance of quality improvement in behavioral health

    Ensuring your patients get the quality care they need by assessing the impact of your behavioral health programming is essential.

    Here’s what Iris Telehealth’s Executive Director of Quality, Yara Nielsenshultz, RN, MS, CPHQ, had to say about the importance of having a quality management strategy in place:

    Yara Nielsenshultz, RN, MS, CPHQ, Executive Director of Quality

    We cannot know for sure if we’re impacting patient outcomes without measuring them. We can think we’re doing a good job (or not), and we can look at the qualitative evidence, which is important and should not be discounted. But, without some quantitative measurement or goal in mind, we cannot be certain of whether we’re making meaningful improvement.

    That’s where having a quality management strategy comes into play. It forces organizations to think about what excellent care looks like to identify opportunities to improve, take action, and, most importantly, effect meaningful change.

    Focusing on quality improvement initiatives are critical to treatment outcomes, efficiency, patient safety, and timely care. By tracking and knowing with certainty how your behavioral health programs are performing, you can be sure that your patients are getting the best care possible.

    To get more of our expertise, download our guide on the impact of quality management in healthcare.

    Seven healthcare quality measures your organization can track

    In behavioral health, objective measurement of treatment effectiveness can be challenging.

    However, determining specific performance measures and goals and then gathering data on those measures provides meaningful, actionable information. This information is critical to identifying opportunities to improve and track the effectiveness of any initiatives or changes you implement over time.

    Here are seven healthcare quality measures your organization can track to ensure your behavioral health program is operating as smoothly as possible:

    1. Wait time: Monitoring this metric helps avoid waste (time, resources, or equipment), and provides promptness of services (reducing wait times, eliminating discharge delays, etc.)
    2. No-shows: Monitoring and improving no-show rates supports consistency, which may improve patient outcomes and access to care while also optimizing provider time
    3. Performing validated screening: Using validated screening tools, such as PHQ-9, GAD-7, or C-SSRS, provides measurable data to help monitor the impact of healthcare services or interventions on the health status of patients
    4. Safety events; suicide: It’s critical to monitor safety events, such as treatment errors or suicide, so your team can prevent and reduce errors and protect patients
    5. Timely response to patients: Tracking and optimizing response times ensures services are respectful and responsive to patient’s needs while providing the same high level of care to everyone
    6. Patient Reported Outcomes (PROMs): Tracking patient-reported outcomes provides measurable data on patients’ perception of treatment effectiveness, which complements patient satisfaction and can inform quality improvement activities
    7. Patient satisfaction: Implementing surveys or measures to understand patient satisfaction delivers key insights into perceptions of the care patients receive

    Tracking these measures is essential for improving the quality and monitoring of your behavioral health program. However, doing it alone can be overwhelming. That’s why having a partner who can help you track these metrics and work to improve upon them is key.

    The keys to quality improvement in healthcare

    At Iris, we collaborate with partners to optimize their behavioral health programs and maximize their benefits. That means we collaborate and exchange data, aggregate and report information, and help their team improve upon identified quality improvement metrics.

    From our experience, these are the three pillars we’ve found that make a successful quality management solution:

    1. Ongoing monitoring: Meeting quality measures means keeping track of key metrics through ongoing monitoring. By leveraging a partner who effectively monitors quality measures, you’re better positioned to meet performance standards and stay on top of accreditation, certification, and regulatory requirements.
    2. Regular communication: To help stay on top of key metrics, regular touch bases to analyze quality metrics and compare how your performance tracks against target goals are essential. In addition to frequent touch points, at Iris, we deliver easily understandable visualizations, identify trends, and look for opportunities for improvement.
    3. Customized reports: Access to customized reports can help your team know how your organization is tracking. At Iris, we interpret data in an easy-to-understand way that helps provide guidance and recommendations for the best next steps for your organization to meet quality improvement initiatives. We help monitor, evaluate, and improve on selected quality measures like patient outcomes, patient satisfaction, efficiency, and resource utilization.

    Partnering with an organization that provides quality management alongside their behavioral health programs offers many benefits, including adding additional resources to support your organization’s quality initiatives, supporting positive patient outcomes, and helping meet accreditation, certification, and regulatory requirements.

    Where Iris Telehealth fits in

    At Iris, we’ve helped our partners reduce the length of stay in their MedSurg units by 0.5 days, increased ED discharge rates from 55% to 62%, and reduced their length of stay in the ED from 12 to 9 hours.

    Additionally, as a Joint Commission-accredited medical group, we have the expertise to help organizations monitor and address gaps to meet required standards and quality measures. We’ve also helped partners track no-show rates and helped compare provider performance to uncover best practices that were then replicated and implemented across care teams.

    To learn more about how you can improve quality initiatives at your organization, contact our downloadable, The Impact of Quality Management in Healthcare. Or, if you’d like to talk to someone to learn how we can help jumpstart your quality initiatives or behavioral health program, contact us today.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHC) are specially designated clinics offering comprehensive services to treat mental health and substance use disorders. Organizations must apply for designation and adhere to extensive CCBHC certification criteria, ultimately allowing them to focus on target populations, increase access to care, and offer a broader range of services.

    In a webinar hosted by Iris Telehealth, leaders from Pines Behavioral Health, HealthRIGHT 360, and Deschutes County Mental Health came together to discuss their journeys to gaining CCBHC certification, their advice on the certification process, and insights into virtual care.

    In this blog, we’ll review insights from these organizations on the challenges and benefits of becoming a CCBHC and learn how they’ve found success.

    First steps and goals when considering CCBHC certification

    Deciding to become a CCBHC comes with many considerations, and knowing the first steps and getting clear on goals can be helpful to the process. For example, at HealthRIGHT 360, they applied via SAMHSA’s CCBHC expansion grant opportunity.

    When reflecting on their goal for gaining CCBHC certification, Melissa Espinoza, the CCBHC Program Director at HealthRIGHT 360, said, “We wanted to enhance our longstanding outpatient behavioral health programs in LA County and potentially to replicate this throughout other sites within the agency and organization.”

    For Chandra Mola, the Medical Team Manager at Deschutes County Mental Health, their goal was to create a more integrated, whole-person approach to care and extend outreach into their rural communities.

    On their certification, Mola said, “We were certified in 2017. We had a small integrated primary care office and had kind of a one-stop shop and saw the benefits of having that whole-person care collaboration and improvements with overall health. One of the driving pieces was being able to expand to our more rural locations and offer that at all of our sites. Then the second piece was just a plan to diversify our funding.”

    Whether you want to enhance your existing behavioral health services or reach more people in your community, CCBHC certification can help support your efforts. While it’s essential to get clear on your goals, it’s also important to consider any potential challenges and the right strategies you might need to meet these head-on.

    Potential challenges and strategies to CCBHC certification

    Gaining designation can be rigorous, and there can be a lot of CCBHC criteria to consider when preparing your organization for the process.

    Here are a few challenges CCBHCs encountered when first getting started:

    • Administrative challenges: At Deschutes County Mental Health, Mola said, “SAMHSA grants are daunting. They’re big. It’s certainly just being able to deal with the administrative burden it puts on every aspect of our departments. The opening up to broader groups of people offered it to people who had private health insurance. Things like just setting up the billing departments to be able to bill for all of that.”
    • Staff turnover: For HealthRIGHT 360, Espinoza said they struggled to get their team on board and encountered staffing challenges. “There were a lot of long-term staff that felt they didn’t wanna be a part of this, it was too much extra. And so staffing was a struggle that we had to overcome.” Today, HealthRIGHT 360 is stabilizing and has learned a lot from its first round of funding. Espinoza said the organization worked hard to re-obtain churned staff and obtain new staff by enhancing and strengthening their benefits packages.
    • Increased demand: For Pines Behavioral Health, Sue Germann, Chief Executive Officer, highlighted that it wasn’t the certification process that proved challenging, but the demand for services, which increased by 36% after their designation, citing, “Every service we provided had a greater need – including psychiatric. We connected with Iris right away with a virtual psychiatrist, which was invaluable.”

    While these are certainly challenging, there are many benefits as well. Let’s take a look at the positive outcomes these organizations have encountered since their designation.

    The benefits of CCBHC certification

    While the upfront designation process may be tedious, according to our partners, the benefits of CCBHC certification are all worth it. At Pines Behavioral Health, Germann said their team was finally able to meet the wants of their community that aren’t necessarily Medicaid allowable.

    After gaining designation, they were able to get more creative with what they offered. Speaking about the benefits of their designation, Germann said, “We created a health and wellness program where you didn’t have to come in and have an assessment and a treatment plan before you could have the service. You could come in and learn how physical health impacts mental health.”

    She also mentioned the help they received with their 24/7 crisis team, noting, “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.”

    At HealthRIGHT 360, Espinoza and her team value the ability to help more people in their community and the flexibility the grant has given them.

    Espinoza shares, “It has allowed us to assess and address the needs of our population in ways that we were not able to before. One of the initial CCBHC requirements is a community needs assessment. So, instead of taking long-established services and fitting clients into those boxes, we can really survey and obtain feedback from clients about their individual needs through their experiences and feedback. So that has been really important.”

    At Deschutes County Mental Health, Mola pointed out the positive outcomes they’ve experienced, noting, “The benefits have been overall improved health outcomes. We’ve seen decreases in blood pressure, we’ve seen better managed A1C. BMI is still a tricky one, but we have seen a little bit of improvement there. So that whole-person care has driven us to decide to adopt this model permanently.”

    The integration of the CCBHC model and virtual care

    CCBHCs can benefit significantly from a strategic virtual behavioral health partnership. Through high-quality support, evidence-based care, and a team of highly qualified behavioral health providers, this partnership is one of the keys to finding success as a CCBHC.

    Want to learn more about how the right telehealth partner can help support your CCBHC’s approach to evidence-based care? Check out our blog, How Telehealth Can Support CCBHC Quality Measures through Evidence-Based Care.

    Reflecting on their organization’s approach to virtual care and partnership with Iris Telehealth, Espinoza said, “Virtual care has not gone away. That is a part of our long-term strategy. We do know some clients prefer and benefit from in-person services, but there are also clients who really do value the flexibility in their schedules to be able to participate in treatment through that platform as well.

    Currently, in our CCBHC, we are offering a hybrid model of service delivery for our staff. It allows them the flexibility, and it allows the client’s flexibility to continue with treatment through our agency.”

    For Deschutes County Mental Health, Chandra Mola says telehealth has been crucial to them during the provider shortage, stating, “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.”

    Mola also noted how specific quality measures have improved at Deschutes, “We’ve noticed that our no-show rates improve when we have this option 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.”

    We want to thank the incredible leaders from Pines Behavioral Health, HealthRIGHT 360, and Deschutes County Mental Health for taking the time to share their valuable insights. We couldn’t be more proud to partner with you and work together to create a better world through healthy minds. Click here to watch the full webinar.

    If you’d like to learn more about how Iris Telehealth can help assist your organization throughout the certification and beyond, contact us today!

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    Provider retention is always top of mind for healthcare organizations – especially during a provider shortage. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to set your organization up for success and retain the incredible providers that join your team. In this blog, we’ll review best practices, tips, and strategies you can implement to help improve employee retention in healthcare.

    Challenges organizations face with provider retention

    According to data from the Health Resources & Services Administration, 164 million people live in a mental health professional shortage area, and more than 8,000 mental health professionals are needed to meet the demand for care.

    Mental health professionals have more flexibility to change jobs because the need for their services is so high. In fact, a new report from Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service (HCS) surveyed 426 behavioral health facilities and found an average 27% turnover rate across all positions, with a vacancy rate of 14%.

    So, what can healthcare organizations do to find providers? And, once they’ve found the right provider, how can they make sure they’re happy long-term? Let’s take a look at a few best practices they can implement at their organization.

    Strategies to retain mental health professionals

    Helping ensure providers are supported is one of the keys to recruitment and retention in healthcare. This supportive approach can start from the very beginning. For example, it’s essential to provide benefits and compensation aligned with the demands of the community where they live and the cost of living.

    Additionally, one of the most significant contributors to attrition in the mental health space is compassion fatigue and burnout. As behavioral health clinicians regularly hear stories of trauma, which can cause secondary trauma for them. So, ensuring your providers are supported and have someone they can talk to can be very beneficial. If your provider is in a virtual environment, helping them connect with onsite or other virtual colleagues is especially helpful.

    For instance, leveraging an internal messaging platform, along with regularly scheduled meetings can help support your clinicians and keep them engaged. It’s crucial that clinicians feel included in the day-to-day and that they have a connection to one another.

    In addition to these strategies, there are a few tried and true best practices you can implement to help create a positive experience for your providers.

    Best practices to improve provider retention

    At Iris Telehealth, we’ve found that creating a supportive environment for providers has been key to provider retention.

    Here are a few of the best practices we’ve put in place to help secure long-term matches:

    • Thorough clinical recruitment process: From the beginning, our clinical hiring team gets to know our clinicians – their preferences, values, and needs. That way, we can help ensure they find an organization that’s the best fit for them. That also means we get to know our partner organizations very well. Through our clinical recruitment process, called The Iris Match, we work to make the best matches possible, so the provider and the organization they work for are set-up for long-term success.
    • Effective communication: Our clinical operations managers (COMs) at Iris help ensure our providers always have someone to call and know how important they are. This team serves as their advocates, addressing any and all needs a provider may have. At the same time, COMs help our partners ensure their long-term relationship with the provider is successful by helping facilitate effective collaboration and communication.
    • Licensing and credentialing: Another impactful best practice we implement is help with licensing and credentialing. Our medical staff services (MSS) team effectively licenses and credentials all Iris providers and gives providers and partners the most efficient, proactive, and trouble-free experience during onboarding and throughout the relationship. By taking care of this part of the puzzle, providers can focus on doing what they do best – providing quality patient care.
    • Quality benefits: Ensuring our providers have what they need in terms of compensation and benefits is crucial. That’s why we offer our providers the option of a W2 or 1099, whatever fits their lifestyle. We also offer continuing education funds, an office expense account, and a good health insurance plan.

    Leveraging these multiple layers of support helps increase provider satisfaction, and ultimately helps increase retention as well. Let’s dive a little deeper into the importance of matching the right clinician with the right healthcare organization.

    Finding the right provider match and securing long-term care

    Quality matches ensure a long-term fit. That’s why we take making quality matches seriously. Here are a few insights we have implemented into The Iris Match.

    • In every scoping call with an organization, we review technical questions like appointment times, population seen, and diagnoses.
    • We ask what’s unique about your population or what would be essential to know.
    • We ask about desired soft skills, personality, or what the organizations have liked about some of their long-term providers so we can identify similar qualities.

    At Iris, we’ve found that it’s not just a matter of a skill fit as much as it’s a will fit. We’re proud to match providers with organizations where they feel aligned and supported.

    Where Iris fits in

    At Iris, we take retention seriously – from the first interview all the way through the interview. We highly value creating amazing experiences for providers and organizations.

    If you’d like to learn more about The Iris Match, or learn if we can help you find a clinician who your patients and providers will love, contact us today.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    CCBHCs are required to meet a strict set of quality measures. Fortunately, they don’t have to do it alone. With the help of a strategic telehealth partner, these organizations are better positioned to maintain CCBHC accreditation through high-quality support, evidence-based care, and a team of virtual providers.

    In this blog, we’ll walk through how telehealth can provide top-notch support and help CCBHCs in their evidence-based approach to care.

    Quality measures and challenges CCBHCs may face

    CCBHCs serve as a lifeline for their communities – ensuring high-quality care across the lifespan regardless of age, diagnosis, or insurance status. However, providing this level of service is no easy feat. CCBHCs must follow strict measures like 24/7 crisis services and care coordination and have enough clinicians on staff to support their operations. Additionally, tracking and examining their quality measures is essential to maintaining CCBHC accreditation.

    Fortunately, that’s where a strategic behavioral health partner can help by matching CCBHCs with specialty mental health providers to support their populations and on-site providers while helping them track and examine their quality measures.

    Let’s take a look at how telehealth can be leveraged in a virtual environment and provide evidence-based care.

    What evidence-based care looks like in a virtual environment

    Leveraging a telehealth solution can promote quality and evidence-based care by increasing the pool of specialty providers available to a CCBHC. For example, telehealth can help connect an organization with a provider with expertise in evidence-based treatment, whether an LCSW specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or a PMHNP or psychiatrist specializing in substance use treatment.

    At Iris Telehealth, we leverage a process called, The Iris Match. This approach is our way of helping ensure an organization gets connected to a provider who aligns with their values, can provide the care their population needs, and is someone providers, and patients love. To learn more about this approach, check out our downloadable “A Healthcare Organization’s Guide to Provider Matching.”

    Additionally, the right strategic partner will also look at quality measures alongside the CCBHC. As a Joint Commission-accredited organization, Iris prioritizes reviewing quality measures, including chart and peer reviews. Subsequently, we develop and implement educational initiatives and quality measures based on these reviews. We also collect data for quality measures such as time for initial appointment improvement on PHQ-9s, and our quality team partners with the CCBHC to aggregate the data for our providers, analyze it, and work on quality improvement.

    The benefits of working with a quality-focused telehealth partner

    Now that we’ve taken a look at what evidence-based care looks like in a virtual environment, let’s explore a few high-level ways the right telehealth partner can benefit a CCBHC’s quality initiatives.

    Here are the benefits of a comprehensive telehealth solution:

    • Expansive staffing: Telehealth allows your organization to expand beyond your local community and into a bigger pool of therapists, nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists.
    • Aggregation of quality measures: The right partner can help you aggregate data and compare it to national benchmarks, discuss current partner metrics, and look at quality improvement initiatives together.
    • Access to specialists: Whether you need children and adolescents specialists, bilingual providers, or a clinician who specializes in substance use, telehealth grants access to these providers regardless of your geographic location.
    • Medical group leadership: Working with a seasoned partner allows you to tap into their knowledge base, industry expertise, advice, and schedule regular idea sharing sessions to ensure you’re up to date on the most recent evidence-based practices.
    • Robust support: Your partner may deliver supplementary support like a credentialing team, clinical operations manager, and IT assistance. This additional layer of support allows your organization to continue doing what you do best and minimizes any disruption during the onboarding process.

    To learn more about the benefits working with a quality-focused telehealth partner, download our guide here.

    Evidence-based care in action

    Swope Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and CCBHC serving the greater Kansas City area, providing a team-based integrated care approach personalized to their population’s needs.

    Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they struggled to find the right provider match for their population. They began facing new challenges with recruiting, and their former hiring strategies weren’t working anymore – that’s when they reached out to Iris for help.

    Iris worked closely with the team at Swope and found the perfect provider match who integrated seamlessly into their care team. Since bringing teletherapy to their community, Swope has seen show rates increase by 5%. They’ve also been able to reduce their patient waiting lists substantially.

    We’re proud to have helped Swope meet these quality measures and help more people get the care they need. Click here to read their full story.

    Where Iris Telehealth fits in

    At Iris, we see the amazing work CCBHCs are doing each day, and we couldn’t be more proud to help provide quality care to their populations. That’s why we’re holding a webinar exclusively for CCBHCs on September 14, 1:00-2:00 p.m. CT.

    In this live webinar, leaders from CCBHCs across the country will share their journey to certification, how the CCBHC model works for them, and the steps they’re taking to meet the quality measures necessary to maintain CCBHC accreditation and improve health outcomes.

    Want to hold your seat? Click here to sign-up for the webinar!

    Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about how working with the right strategic behavioral health partner can improve your CCBHC’s approach to quality care, contact us today.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    Telehealth has revolutionized the patient experience by making it easier to attend appointments, communicate with their provider, and reduce no-show rates. On top of enabling continuity of care for patients, telehealth also increases clinician satisfaction and provides financial benefits for organizations. In this blog, we review why no-shows happen and how the impact of telehealth can help improve patient outcomes and organizations.

    Social determinants of health and no-show rates

    Inability to take time off work, challenges getting childcare, fear of stigma, limited access to transportation, and complicated commutes are all barriers that can keep patients from regularly attending their behavioral health appointments. In fact, according to the American Hospital Association’s report, Transportation and the Role of Hospitals, 3.6 million people in the U.S. don’t receive care due to transportation barriers.

    Fortunately, telehealth creates a digital front door that meets patients where they are, regardless of the social determinants of health they face. For example, if a patient can’t take off from work for two hours to drive to their appointment, they can find a confidential area to take their appointment and still receive treatment.

    Dr. Thomas Milam, Chief Medical Officer of Iris Telehealth, shared his thoughts on how telehealth can be used to bridge communication between providers and their patients, noting:

    “Telehealth is not just video connections with people. It’s patient portals, online self-scheduling, digital front doors that enable people to cancel, schedule, or postpone appointments. Video and audio-only connections can help people connect to a mental health professional from home and receive new services and follow-up appointments.

    Having those avenues for patients to access their providers in different ways has shown to be a big and important aspect of telehealth.”

    It’s evident telehealth has a lot of benefits for patients, but let’s take a look at some of the ways this care delivery model can promote provider satisfaction and help organizations improve the financial sustainability of their behavioral health programs.

    How to improve provider satisfaction and no-show rates

    Addressing no-show rates not only benefits your patients, but it can also provide financial benefits for your organization. For example, an article from Forbes references a study that found patient no-shows cost the U.S. health system $150 billion a year and physicians an average of $200 for unused time slots.

    Implementing telehealth opens up another option for patients to get care and can help providers see patients whether they take their appointments in-person or online.

    Additionally, provider satisfaction may decline if your no-show rate increases, and your organization may experience higher turnover rates. For example, if a provider consistently has patients missing appointments, and they’re not getting to provide consistent care, they could struggle with job satisfaction. In turn, recruiting a new provider can cost an organization two to three times the annual salary of the provider they’re replacing.

    The good news is that using telehealth as a strategy to encourage patients to attend their appointments can help increase provider satisfaction and help them keep doing what they do best. It also helps create the possibility of different appointment types. With different forms of communication like telehealth, patients can reach out to their clinic and let them know they won’t be able to make their appointment. This communication can open up an appointment for another patient waiting for care.

    According to Dr. Milam: “Financially, it’s good to have avenues for patients to get access who are on wait lists. There are a lot of things that can be done through digital health without human involvement. For example, if someone cancels an appointment online, it can send a link to someone else notifying them that an appointment is available. There are a lot of things that don’t involve human power that can connect people and increase access.”

    Along with opening the digital door to another patient for care, the impact of telehealth can also add flexibility to the patient experience. For example, if patients can’t come in for their entire appointment, they can take an audio-video call for 30 minutes from their car if needed.

    Patients who feel more engaged and connected to their provider are more likely to show and communicate if they can’t make their appointment. For providers, if there’s communication and the provider knows they won’t have a visit during a certain slot, they can regroup, work on notes, or reply to emails.

    The connection between patient engagement and virtual care models

    Providing care via telehealth opens up more options for access. For example, with telehealth, your organization can expand your provider pool beyond your local community and connect your patients with specialty providers who can most effectively help your population.

    Additionally, for health systems, your organization can connect your patients with care models like Bridge Care Services. This model helps keep your patients engaged with their health outcomes and walks with them through each step of their journey.

    Bridge Care Services provides a clinician-guided evidence-based navigation assessment that directs patients to the most appropriate next level of care, addresses short-term gaps in care across the continuum, and facilitates closed-loop handoff to the optimal long-term provider.

    Addressing short-term gaps in care can have an impact on patient symptoms, even in a short amount of time. In fact, at Iris, one of our partners achieved a 38% improvement in depression symptoms over eight weeks of care. Additionally, they were able to get 40% of their psychiatry referrals diverted to a lower, more cost-effective level of care. You can read the full case study here.

    By opening up access to specialty providers and effective care models via telehealth, your patients will be more engaged with their care journeys, and your organization will see better no-show rates.

    Improve your no-show rates with Iris Telehealth

    If you’d like to learn more about how telehealth can improve your patient experience and decrease no-show rates at your organization, contact us today.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    Medical groups and telehealth locum tenens groups are often compared but have distinct differences in their approach to patient care, the provider selection process, and care team integration. At Iris Telehealth, we’re a medical group facilitating telepsychiatry services to communities across the country. Our behavioral health providers work with patients and organizations to provide high-quality, value-based care.

    So, what’s the difference between a medical group approach and telehealth locum tenens approach? Keep reading to learn more about telehealth locum tenens, how their approach differs from a medical group solution, and how telepsychiatry can bring the best value to healthcare organizations across the U.S.

    What does it mean to be a telehealth locum tenens group?

    Telehealth locum tenens are typically used for part-time or short-term provider fills. Regionally, locum tenens have niche groups that provide temporary work when organizations need an extra hand. For example, if a provider goes on maternity or disability leave, a locum’s group could provide a temporary fill for their position. Providers could be contracted anywhere from six to 12 months (if your organization needs a provider to serve a long-term position for your community, a locum tenens group is probably not for you).

    Telehealth locum tenens may also be used when a healthcare organization doesn’t have adequate behavioral health support and need additional physician staffing. Hospitals or health systems may work with a telehealth locums group to help supplement gaps like those left by the ongoing provider shortage. At the height of the pandemic, 85% of healthcare facilities utilized locum tenens.

    While locums telepsychiatry services typically provide short-term solutions, medical groups like Iris have the staying power to make a meaningful impact on the healthcare organizations they serve.

    Three distinct differences between telehealth locum tenens and telepsych partners

    Even though locums telepsychiatry services may be a convenient solution, achieving long-term stability can be challenging for their partners. Long-term stability takes shape in several ways – including cost, collaboration, and continuity of care. Although a challenge for locums, long-term stability is where a solution like a dedicated telepsychiatry partner shines. Let’s take a closer look at how these two approaches compare.

    Cost: Locums come with a higher hourly rate for a short-term fill. Higher costs can prove difficult for organizations for obvious reasons like expense, but the extra lift of licensing and credentialing each new provider can also become tedious. With locums telepsychiatry services, your team also has to run point on any background checks, paperwork, and reference checks that must take place.

    At Iris, we manage all recruiting, supporting, and supervising costs. Additionally, we handle all the licensing and credentialing to help make the implementation process as smooth as possible. By tailoring market rates, finding the best solution for your organization’s challenges, and strategizing to find the most cost-effective solution, we create an implementation process that works for everyone.

    Collaboration: Integration is an essential part of our approach to care. Iris providers become a seamless part of your care team, building trust and rapport with your patients and your organization. Securing this trust between providers in the same health networks creates comfort and reliability.

    For locums, without a long-term provider solution, it’s difficult for an organization’s providers to feel like the locum tenens physicians are part of the team, and can make it challenging to build concrete workflows.

    Continuity of care: The beauty of securing a long-term provider fit is the relationship that can build between patients and providers. When patients can see the same provider consistently, the patient experience is better. But, when organizations have high provider turnover rates, patients have to continually re-tell their stories – which can negatively impact engagement. This turnover can create distrust, increase no-show rates, and even cause a patient to convert to a clinic that provides a long-term solution.

    With these components at play, working with a provider who can deliver on cost, integration, and continuity of care can be essential to your organization’s success.

    The value of job matching

    At Iris, job matching is an essential piece of the puzzle. When matching a provider with an organization, we take several things into consideration to ensure the match is right.

    The Iris Match includes:

    • Provider experience
    • The mentality of the organization’s executive team
    • Prescribing philosophies
    • Personality match
    • And much more

    In contrast, most locum tenens groups look at age, range, specialty, where they’re licensed, and run the standard checks – but the process stops there.

    Locums telepsychiatry solutions can gloss over the critical details that help create stability and long-term job satisfaction. At Iris, we value clinician happiness and want our providers to feel good at their jobs. That’s why we take an extra step to get to know our providers, understand what they want, and learn how we can match them with an organization that meets their needs.

    Additionally, our licensing and credentialing team allows us the flexibility to look outside of the state for providers who might have more pertinent experience for the position an organization is trying to fill.

    Positive outcomes from a medical group approach

    Partnership is a central component of a medical group’s approach to care. For Iris, it’s an essential part of who we are and what we value. From the beginning, our partners meet with key stakeholders at Iris who get to know what they’re looking for, their needs, their model, and what it takes to make a successful provider match. We’re also clinically driven and have clinical leaders that help educate our recruiters.

    Based on this approach, we’ve been able to secure successful matches and drive positive outcomes for our partners, like Swope Health and Spectrum Healthcare. Together, we helped them achieve the following outcomes for their population:

    • Secure the right provider match for their community
    • Guarantee functioning telepsychiatry systems
    • Seamless provider integration
    • Increase their show rates
    • And reduce their waiting list

    We care about our partners and the mental health of their patients. That’s why we take time to make thoughtful matches, like we did at Swope and Spectrum, to help expand care and drive better outcomes.

    Where Iris fits in

    At Iris, we work with you to create a long-term placement that facilitates high-quality care for your patients and care team. We provide support along the way to help with implementation and customized workflows and assist your care team with licensing and credentialing.

    If you would like to talk more about how we can help your organization secure a long-term provider fit, contact us today.

    Tag Archives: Best Practices

    As more states become eligible for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) certification and funding, healthcare organizations are considering becoming CCBHCs. The opportunities for CCBHCs continue to expand, and it’s in your organization’s best interest to consider obtaining CCBHC certification. The certification process can be labor-intensive but it offers many benefits to organization and patients.

    In this piece, we’ll discuss the requirements, challenges, and how to become a certified community behavioral health clinic.

    What is a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC)?

    The CCBHC program began in 2014 to identify healthcare organizations with exceptional, comprehensive care and provide them with additional funding to increase access to services. It’s grown since then, and Congress has appropriated annual funds for CCBHC expansion grants since 2018. These grants allow CCBHCs to expand access to care. However, existing funds are not intended for long-term sustainability, and states are working to expand the state CCBHC model within state Medicaid programs to account for long-term growth. Bipartisan federal legislation was introduced in 2020 to extend CCBHC programs to new states and expand the reach of currently existing CCBHCs.

    The fact that both state and federal governments are prioritizing CCBHCs is a testament to their success and essential work in the community. And, CCBHCs distinguish themselves from more traditional care models in a number of ways, including:

    • Their emphasis on increasing access to care
    • Their “open-door policy” requires them to serve anyone needing care. They partner with local primary care facilities and hospitals. They integrate with physical health care to serve patients’ mental and physical health needs
    • Their tailored care for active-duty military and veterans and commitment to involving peers and family in care processes
    • To learn more about CCBHCs and what they provide, check out this resource from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

    CCBHCs serve everyone without limitations on geographic location or ability to pay because of the additional funding they receive.

    How do logistics differ from other mental health providers?

    You’ll notice shorter wait times for CCBHC mental health services than you would working with other mental health providers. CCBHCs aim for a five-day wait time for new intakes, and most also have walk-in clinics. Some CCBHCs even provide same-day access.

    CCBHCs are also required to provide 24/7/365 access to crisis care, including mobile crisis teams and crisis hotlines.

    On top of shorter wait times, a few other CCBHC requirements include:

    • Evidence-based practices: As a CCBHC, you must maintain an additional level of quality by using evidence-based practices for every process.
    • MAT: You’ll need a care coordinator who offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders.
    • Payment: You’ll have to establish a sustainable payment program that allows the practice to exist even without grants or additional government funding.

    Who is eligible for CCBHC certification?

    All nonprofit health centers are eligible to become CCBHCs. Many organizations fall into the nonprofit category, including:

    • Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs)
    • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
    • State mental health clinics
    • Tribal health organizations
    • Other nonprofit health centers

    While for-profit clinics cannot individually be certified as CCBHCs, they can be certified collaborating partners of a CCBHC system.

    The pros and cons of CCBHC certification

    Of course, there are pros and cons to CCBHC certification. Benefits of certification include the fact that your organization is held to a higher standard. These stands mean you provider better care for patients and eligibility for more funding even beyond the CCBHC grants. Cons include the lengthy and involved process and the fact that you’ll need a dedicated implementation team to become certified.

    If you decide the pros outweigh the cons, your next step will be a three-part process to prepare your organization for certification.

    You’ll first set expectations for your team, then review your policies and procedures while simultaneously evaluating your MAT protocol. We’ll review each of these steps below.

    1. Set expectations: As you’re considering the process, set expectations within your organization. It can take up to a year to get off the ground as a CCBHC and will be an involved process. Large organizations may be able to move through the process more easily, as they may already be providing many of the services required for CCBHC certification. Smaller organizations may take a couple of years to increase staffing to a point that will make them viable CCBHC candidates.
    2. Review policies and procedures: CCBHCs must accept all patients and use evidence-based practices. You’ll need to review all of your policies and procedures to ensure every action you currently take is deliberate and documented. If your clinic uses the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality, your policies will not hold up under scrutiny by accreditors. Reviewing policies is a major task, as it means policies ranging from how you prescribe medications to cleaning processes for the laundry room must be documented. Today, Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) make it easier to track the number of patients served, services they receive, follow-up times for crisis calls, and more. While many health centers are already capturing this data for internal purposes, it’s important to ensure data is captured consistently and reported to external auditors.
    3. MAT protocol: Clinics who aren’t already offering medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may find the MAT requirement a barrier as they consider certification. Consider what your center currently offers, and remember your clinic does not have to be a full free-standing methadone or suboxone clinic but does need to provide evidence-based MAT.

    Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Many other clinics have gone through the process, and templates for policies and procedures reduce some of the work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and use the resources available. There are databases across the country for clinics to share resources.

    What other challenges could I encounter?

    The process for gaining CCBHC certification is constantly in motion. Staff turnover is one of the biggest challenges you could face during implementation. If your staff turns over during the quality management phase, you may lose progress and crucial internal knowledge.

    To account for this potential challenge, make sure you have a reliable point person, usually the clinic’s director of quality management, to lead the project and be the final point of contact. Once certified, your quality management team will also have to prepare for audits and answer auditors’ questions on demand.

    Be proactive, not reactive

    We hope this discussion has given you some insight into the world of CCBHCs. Just as hospitals were striving for Joint Commission accreditation years ago, we believe nonprofit health centers will soon need to move toward CCBHC certification to ensure they’re providing the best quality care. Leaders in the field can influence the future of community mental health care by being CCBHC certified early instead of being forced to become certified in the future.

    More resources

    Also, remember that sister centers within your state and other healthcare provider have gone through the process can be valuable resources.

    As always, Iris Telehealth is here to guide you. Contact us for more information about CCBHC certification and benefits.