Behavioral health and mental health providers are facing a unique challenge right now, not only because clients are experiencing high levels of emotional trauma, but because many clinics are not able to provide in-person mental health services, or have had to severely limit the availability of face-to-face visits for patient health and safety. For clinics that were not prepared to offer telemental services before COVID-19 hit, the transition may have been difficult (if you’ve been able to make a transition at all).
Behavioral health and mental health services were already a challenge for many patients—more than 55 percent of counties in the U.S. don’t have a psychiatrist, and 77 percent have “severe shortages” of psychiatrists and other behavioral health professionals, according to a National Council for Behavioral Health analysis.
Here are some strategies to help you transition to offering more telemedicine services for mental health and behavioral health without sacrificing the quality of care you provide.
Create a Telemedicine Plan
While you may be feeling the need to implement something fast right now as COVID-19 limits your ability to see people in person, it’s important not to rush into implementation. Start by creating a plan for how you want to provide telemedicine to your clients right now, but also in the future. That way you can lay the groundwork for successful software implementation that will outlast the current crisis.
Carefully Evaluate Telemedicine Software
One of the most important factors in whether or not your switch to telemedicine for behavioral health and mental health services will succeed is the quality of your platform. There are a wide variety of telemedicine software platforms available, so it’s important to find ones that:
- Are specifically built with the needs of mental health and behavioral health in mind
- Include the right features for small and independent mental health clinics and providers
- Offer privacy and security in a cloud-based network environment
- Are simple and intuitive for your staff, providers, and clients to use
Understand When Telemedicine is Appropriate & When It’s Not as Helpful
There are still some patients that may not benefit from telemedicine services for behavioral health or mental health, and it’s important to understand which patients might still get the most out of in-person visits. While you may need to provide telemedicine care to them during the public health emergency (PHE) of COVID-19, knowing which individuals need in-person care will help you transition them back when the current crisis is over. While many behavioral health and mental health clinics have been pleasantly surprised by how smoothly they could move people from face-to-face to virtual appointments, it’s still not appropriate for everyone.
Prepare Your Billing Team
Billing for telemedicine visits is different from in-person, so it’s also important to train staff on your medical billing team about how to do it correctly so you can get reimbursed for your services.