Telepsychiatry has seen growth under COVID-19. Will this growth sustain beyond the pandemic? In this article, we discuss:

  • Telepsychiatry- Challenges & Barriers
  • Best practices for implementation
  • Top behavioural health telemedicine vendors
  • Will telepsychiatry survive?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought numerous catastrophes both at the individual and collective level. People have suffered from the loss of loved ones, job losses, economic recession and diminished face to face interaction with friends and family. Such circumstances would take a toll on anybody, but the impact is higher for someone with a mental illness.

In such an environment having access to mental health services becomes crucial. Thanks to Telepsychiatry, many physicians and therapists were able to continue providing care to their patients throughout the pandemic. However, the transition has not been easy for most practitioners. Confusion around deployment rules and reimbursements for televisits are some of the leading reasons a lot of mental health practitioners continue to stay away from Telepsychiatry.

Telepsychiatry – Challenges and Barriers

Sudden changes in our routine often disrupt our behaviors. One of the most significant changes for mental health practitioners was the introduction of telehealth software for behavioural health. Here are some of the barriers that practitioners face while trying to make it work:

Comfort

When mental health practitioners have to move from in-person appointments to online meetings, the change can be disturbing. Although some medical professionals are relatively comfortable talking through a screen, some are not. Particularly the elderly who are not well equipped with technology and its usage. There are a lot of psychiatry EHR platforms that are simple to understand and are made specifically to cater to this bracket. 

Implementation

Implementing Telepsychiatry software for primary care physicians is yet another common problem. Even today, no federal state has declared that practitioners are to be given the same reimbursement with Telepsychiatry as with face-to-face meetings. Even before COVID-19, only five states had implemented laws to ensure that practitioners will receive the same or equivalent amount with Telehealth as compared to in-person meetings.

During COVID-19, 21 states decided to invest in Telepsychiatry software for psychiatrists. However, only 13 of those states were able to establish parity laws successfully. However, that still leaves out a lot of states who are not yet ready for the change.

Another deterrent to telehealth implementation is the cost involved. Telepsychiatry software cost around  $300. However, providers have the option of low-cost telehealth software ( $35 to $50) albeit with lesser functionality.

Licensure laws

A health practitioner wishing to practice across state lines must be licensed in all those states.  All states have different licensing process and laws, which makes this process troublesome for most. Exceptions are available during the pandemic; however,  there is little clarity around them.

So far, 12 states offer special licenses to practitioners for Telepsychiatry across state lines. Also, six states have a special registration process for practitioners that enables them to practice across state lines.

Although not all, many states have started reimbursing practitioners for private payers and Medicaid.

Reimbursement (Medicaid)

  • Twenty-two states reimburse for online patient monitoring.
  • Fourteen states offer reimbursement for the store and forward.

Reimbursement (Private Payer)

  • Forty-one states manage and govern telehealth reimbursement policies in regards to private payers.
  • Six states have successfully implemented private payer parity laws.

Best Practices to implement Telepsychiatry software

Now that we’ve talked about some of the significant problems that COVID-19 had brought upon us when it comes to Telepsychiatry. It’s time to talk about how you can reach out to your patients online with a Telepsychiatry solution. Here are some of the best practices to keep in mind when implementing your Telepsychiatry solution.

Creating an Internal Implementation Committee: An internal implementation committee can help guide the integration process and seamlessly introduce Telepsychiatry to your practice while keeping costs low.

Maintaining Patient Experience: When implementing such a massive change to your organization, make sure you don’t start missing out on the patient experience. After all, the patients are the whole reason you’re implementing a Telepsychiatry EHR Solution.

Start Small: Instead of implementing the change in your whole practice at once, take it step by step. Introduce one service at a time and shift to it gradually.

Every Penny Counts: A Telepsychiatric solution can be as simple and as extensive as you want. However, make sure to include all of the costs of implementation such as warranty, subscriptions, add-ons, support. This will also help you determine an accurate ROI.

Choosing Your Telepsychiatry Solution

The right software for you will depend on the functionality you need as well as your budget. If you intend to  include Telepsychiatry as a long term service in your practice make sure you have the following:

  • The telepsychiatry EHR shoftware should be HIPAA compliant
  • The video and audio quality should be good
  • You should have a strong internet connection

Here are the top rated full-suite EHR products available in the market:

AthenaHealth EMR: Athenahealth EMR is suitable for medium to large scale practice where you want to save time and ensure your patients receive timely mental health. What makes AthenaHealth unique is that it’s fully embedded with all of the services you would need from patient scheduling to billing management. Also, they also offer group video meetings to help you and your caregiver team to talk extensively with your patient.

AdvancedMD EMR: AdvancedMD EMR, as the name suggests, is ideal for large-scale practices where you want to ensure medical diagnoses, patient support, and seamless online appointments with your mental health patients. To help your practice stand out from the rest, AdvancedMD offers you an appointment dashboard, one-click EHR scheduling system, as well as a separate patient portal. 

Drchrono EMR: Drchrono EMR was built keeping small to medium-scale practices in mind. This solution ensures a cost-effective approach to providing you with all the services you need to cater to your patient’s mental health. Drchrono is a bit more creative telehealth solution than the others. It offers patient portals, online scheduling, automated emails, and Kiosk mode. If you want to reduce your administrative burdens, then Drchrono is the ideal choice.

If you are looking for low cost options and would be willing to compromise on functionality check out low cost Telehealth Software.

 You can also check our telehealth software reviews and pricing

Conclusion - Going the Extra Mile

There is no telling how long COVID-19 might last. So to ensure your psychiatry practice stays afloat during the pandemic, you must shift to a Telepsychiatry solution.

If you’re looking for support in finding the right solution, contact us today at (661) 384 7070 for a complimentary session with one of our experts.

telepsychiatry infographic

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