Muhammad Sair Khan
Implementing Telehealth in Your Behavioral Health Practice
The number of qualified mental health professionals working in the United States cannot keep up with the demand for behavioral health services. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 55 percent of U.S. counties do not have a single mental health professional, leaving the needs of millions of patients facing addiction, mental illness, and other concerns unmet.
Telehealth can help your facility care for these patients, as well as your current patients, by making it faster and easier to connect with them. As technology becomes cheaper and reimbursement models change to include telehealth services, telehealth gives you an opportunity to care for more patients and increase your revenue.
Benefits of Telehealth in Behavioral Health Settings
Behavioral health is one specialty that may benefit the most from telehealth services. As a provider, you’ll be able to:
Quickly provide consultations to non-behavioral health physicians
Expand your team to include members who are off-site or only work part-time
Reach patients in a wider region around your facility or patients with limited transportation
Provide faster care in crisis situations, preventing patient relapses
Telehealth supports increased care coordination between all providers and fits easily within new value-based care models. As value-based care becomes more and more popular, your practice will be ready to maximize reimbursement through your telehealth services.
Considerations Before Offering Telehealth Services
Before you offer telehealth services, you’ll need to ensure your facility is ready. You’ll need to assess your facility’s and area’s needs for telehealth services and ensure your staff and administration are on board for these changes.
According to the Health Resources and Service Administration’s (HRSA) implementation guide, you’ll also need to:
Review regulations, including HIPAA and HITECH. These two acts outline how patient information can be communicated securely. You’ll need to ensure you have the IT infrastructure in place to communicate patient information without putting their privacy at risk.
Check on insurance reimbursement requirements. Most insurance carriers cover behavioral telehealth encounters. However, each insurance company has its own requirements for medical necessity and billing procedures. Review these carefully before you begin offering these services.
Secure liability coverage. You may need different liability insurance to cover telehealth services than you do for traditional care.
Seek out funding. Some funding for telehealth services is available through the HRSA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, especially if you are serving a rural area. This funding can offset start-up costs for your facility.
Designate rooms for telehealth use. If you are using telehealth for virtual patient encounters, you’ll need rooms with a strong internet connection, guaranteed privacy that is compliant with HIPAA laws, and any equipment you need for the telehealth encounter or consultation.
Purchase and test equipment. You may need teleconferencing equipment, such as computers, webcams, and microphones as well as secure phone lines and Internet connections.
Provide staff training. Whether or not staff will be directly involved in telehealth efforts, they need to know how the new services benefit them and their patients. You’ll need to conduct training to educate your staff on these new services and secure their buy-in.
Telehealth helps your facility move into the future while continuing to provide quality care to your patients. Learn how you can implement telehealth services at your facility by contacting the Datapro Billing team.