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Telemedicine in Behavioral Health


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Practices found that telemedicine in behavioral health reached new levels of usage during the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to Covid-19, behavioral health patients could access mental health providers using their computers or laptops to receive evaluation and counseling. However, it was a new aspect of treatment with which many providers were not familiar.

Set-up for usage was complicated, but with the dawning of new technology, using a laptop or desktop computer to treat patients became easy and invaluable to those with limitations. Ever since, providers have leaned on telemedicine to treat patients in their behavioral health practice. This is due to their ease of use and a shift toward acceptance by insurance agencies.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine in behavioral health is also referred to as telehealth. It was designed for patients to receive healthcare via the internet using telecommunications. With a computer or a laptop with a camera, providers enjoyed face-to-face treatment of patients limited in their travel, who are unable to leave their facility, or with restrictive health problems.

Telemedicine allows for counseling, evaluations, medication management, and face-to-face communication with a mental health professional and medical management team, all without the patient having to leave their residence or treatment facility.

Insurance companies began to recognize telemedicine when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced new codes for these services, outlining the guidelines for the treatment.

The Growth of Telemedicine

Telemedicine in behavioral health utilization skyrocketed when the Covid-19 pandemic began to isolate people in hopes of not spreading the virus. Doctors and mental health professionals found themselves having to minimize face-to-face contact with patients in order to stay safe.

The CMS revolutionized telemedicine by redefining the treatment protocols so that more people would have telehealth access. The growth of telemedicine soon included usage of a smartphone for face-to-face communications. Meanwhile, treatments became doable through Skype, Zoom, and Google chat. In this way, providers and patients could participate in treatment without exposure to the virus. 

Telemedicine also kept patients on track with their treatment programs when restrictions from Covid-19 kept people from in-office services. As people stayed home from work and children stayed home from school, timely treatment proved increasingly important.

Behavioral health is not the only service enhanced by telemedicine. They are available to patients and their providers for a number of services. Services that can be provided through telemedicine include:

  • Behavioral health treatments, online therapy, counseling and medication management
  • Recurring medical conditions
  • Lab test results
  • Prescription management
  • Urgent care illnesses, coughs, colds, and stomach aches
  • Covid testing with home tests
  • Treatment for ADD and ADHD
  • Physical and occupational therapies

Telemedicine in Behavioral Health

The role of telemedicine in behavioral health has allowed those in substance use treatment centers to continue with therapy without leaving the facility. In 2015, 26% of facilities providing substance use treatment used telemedicine as part of their patients treatment plans, and by 2020 the percentage increased to 59%.

Telemedicine has expanded the possibilities for mental health treatment for those in treatment facilities. According to data released by the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Centers and the National Mental Health Services Survey, telemedicine usage increased from 22% in 2015 to 69% in 2020. 

Overcoming the stigma of behavioral health treatment begins with patients having the freedom to utilize telemedicine. This allows for feelings of safety and increased privacy when receiving treatments. One result of this increased security and comfort is that behavioral health providers see fewer missed and canceled appointments, making billing easier.

Barriers to Telemedicine for Behavioral Health

Barriers to telemedicine in behavioral health can relate to the reasons for treatment as well as the type of mental illness diagnosed. Those experiencing social anxiety might benefit with the social interaction afforded with visiting a provider in person. Group therapy options with personal interaction between participants can be useful for patients experiencing similar diagnosis and experiences.

At the same time, physicians may prefer evaluating their patient in person to observe body language. Still, telemedicine in behavioral health remains very useful for those with the means to communicate with providers via the internet. 

Telemedicine in Behavioral Health in Florida

If you are interested in learning more about how telemedicine in behavioral health can enhance your practice, we have professional consultants who can answer your questions. Bloom Consulting Agency offers experienced healthcare consultants who can enlighten you on proven techniques to build your practice. Contact us today and let our healthcare consultants give you details on popular telehealth services to expand your business. Healthcare consulting has proven to offer positive growth for practices throughout Florida. We are ready to help!