Hospital emergency departments (EDs) across the country are experiencing a surge in the number of patients presenting with mental health issues. This trend is due to a combination of factors, including lack of community mental health services, cost and coverage barriers, insufficient outpatient resources and inpatient treatment options and a nationwide shortage and uneven geographic distribution of psychiatrists.
Given this, patients seeking behavioral health treatment face long wait times and may have to travel significant distances for an appointment. They may also have trouble finding psychiatry practices accepting new patients or that take their insurance since many have converted to cash-only private practices. Therefore, with nowhere else to turn, these patients are increasingly relying on EDs for behavioral health care.
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Telebehavioral health has been accepted as a proven medium for increasing access to psychiatric, mental and behavioral healthcare by connecting individuals to providers through video calls. Today, in-home, mobile, outpatient and primary care models of telebehavioral health allow for community-based care that addresses behavioral health issues before they reach critical levels. On-demand models of care offer timely services to individuals in the emergency department (ED), psychiatric crisis centers or in the community through mobile crisis teams. There are more patients, employers, health systems and payers employing telehealth, as well as more providers becoming involved in telehealth work in a range of fields, like psychiatry.
The first thing to ask yourself may be, “What are my organization’s overall strategic priorities?” Example questions may include:
• What is my vision for the next [x] number of years?
• How do I evaluate progress toward that goal?
• How does telehealth already fit in or how could it?
• Who is responsible for tracking the telehealth industry within my organization?
• How do I share and apply that information across my organization?
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Quality behavioral health care remains frustratingly out of reach across America. With few psychiatrists available in many parts of the country, this lack of coverage comes during a time when many of these services are needed now more than ever. Against this backdrop, the need for innovation in practicing quality mental health care is resoundingly clear
To treat the whole patient, we must first understand the key factors behind the mental health care shortage
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