Behavioral Health: The Next Tele(mental) Health Frontier

Behavioral Health: The Next Tele(mental) Health Frontier

Anxiety. Depression. Substance abuse. Treating these and other behavioral health issues has historically meant in-person meetings with practitioners, therapists and physicians. However, the isolation-induced times in which we now live have escalated both the underlying issues and restricted access to traditional forms of treatment.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with mental illness. Now more than ever there is a series of barriers that keep the experts from reaching their patients – namely social distancing and quarantining. As these precautionary mandates continue, the need for behavioral health services has increased.

The Need for Telehealth Services

Even before the current pandemic, research conducted by the University of Michigan showed only 18% of those needing substance abuse disorder treatment were receiving care. Prior to COVID-19, less than 10 percent of the US population used telehealth for a clinical encounter and only 18% of physicians provided such services. The study concluded a telehealth solution was needed in order to reduce this treatment gap.

Now, everything has changed. COVID has sparked an unprecedented urgency that pushed telehealth to the top of providers’ priority lists. The underlying technology supports this fast adoption. Advances in usability and access to broadband has increased; the result, therefore, is an enormous uptick in usage.

 Telehealth not only reduces the need for travel, but also facilitates more appointments. It also address the spike in behavioral health issues caused by the novel coronavirus. One example of this comes from a report distributed by the CDC, that states 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use.

Mental health conditions are worsening. To address this growing need, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so that a wider range of services can be made available. In March, CMS explained the 1135 waiver, where Medicare can pay for office, hospital and other visits furnished via telehealth. This includes mental health.

The new focus on utilizing telehealth to reach those with behavioral health needs has spawned a new term: Telemental Health (TMH).

 

Bringing Telemental Health to Life

Nearly all who struggle with mental health can benefit from TMH especially veterans and citizens of rural communities.

Veterans Benefit

When it comes to Veterans, most of the research revolves around PTSD treatment focusing on the success of treatment delivered via video teleconferencing. According to Veterans Affairs (VA) PTSD and telehealth studies, the major benefit of TMH is the elimination of travel. Travel can be costly, transportation may be unavailable, or, more importantly, it may be disruptive to treatment.

An additional benefit, TMH can be a useful tool in unusual situations. For example, some correctional and forensic settings make it difficult to transport the patient to a clinician. And finally, telemental health allows for care when unexpected circumstances make clinic access less possible, such as the patient’s need to travel or providing service within a disaster zone.

The impact and effectiveness of Clinical Video Teleconferencing (CVT) initially raised questions, especially as it pertained to suicide. However, the VA has gathered research that proves CVT delivery is feasible and clinically effective for PTSD treatments. Therefore, the VA has expanded the populations served via telemental health.

Rural Households Benefit

Unlike other types of health care, behavioral health care includes unique challenges facing the provider and the patient. These challenges are made worse in rural areas as discussed in the University of Michigan article mentioned above, The Use of Telehealth Within Behavioral Health Settings.

Several challenges to the provision of behavioral health services exist. The first is the unequal distribution of access to behavioral health providers. These workforce shortages in certain geographic areas are driven by multiple issues, yet telehealth can help alleviate those effects. TMH provides a link between clients in their home communities and behavioral health providers in other locations.

Additionally, anonymity and privacy can be important to individuals seeking services associated with mental illness. In small rural communities, individuals may face a lack of privacy and might resist face-to-face treatment. By offering services via TMH, individuals can maintain a higher level of privacy.

Who is serving, and how?

Telemental health has opened opportunities for providers to reach patients that would otherwise not be receiving treatment for behavioral health problems. Hospitals and even pharmacists connect with patients and consulting practitioners wherever they are. Additionally, studies have found psychiatrists, specifically, are the most common behavioral health professional to use telehealth, followed by mental health counselors.

Whether that patient is a Veteran, living in a rural community, or at risk for COVID-19, mental health professionals have stepped up their use of TMH. Here are a few applications:

  • For assessments, providers offer online substance use questionnaires
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is being offered via videoconferencing
  • Medication management and monitoring is being done through text message reminders
  • Continuing care is offered through group chats, which is helping to prevent relapses
  • Webinars are offered to further educate both clients and providers
  • Interactive video is being used for collaborative consultation

What are the barriers?

First, internet connectivity issues. Patients may still face lack of reliable internet access. Especially internet-disabled rural communities. That, however, has been being addressed one county at a time. Since October of 2019, the USDA has invested $744 million to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to 34 states. Many states have their own initiatives, and many internet service providers are working closely with local governments to enable households, healthcare centers and businesses with the high speed required by TMH.

Second, implementation costs and lack of reimbursement options. DocsInk’s One-tap Telehealth solution addresses these barriers. Their Mobile Charge Capture feature allows for instant billing, drastically reducing reimbursement concerns. Hosting all solutions on a single platform reduces implementation costs making their solution an affordable fit for any size practice.

Behavioral Health Success = Telemental Health

Telehealth is important to the success of hospitals and individual practices. More importantly, it is becoming an invaluable tool for improving access to services and quality of care.

With easy integration, virtual waiting rooms and no apps for patients to download, DocsInk’s One-Tap Telehealth is the solution for improving behavioral health outcomes allowing for more timely access to providers servicing patients in need of psychiatric and mental health services.

To learn more about how your organization can benefit from Telemental Health through DocsInk’s One-Tap Telehealth Solution, email or call 888.577.7409.

Increase patient engagement. Reduce costs. Maximize efficiency. Improve health outcomes.

Seniors and Telehealth: Physicians’ 2021 Goal

Seniors and Telehealth: Physicians’ 2021 Goal

Most seniors hope to be able to ‘age in place.’ The idea of living at home as one grows older can extend life, maintain independence, and keep costs lower. Families generally support this desire, but because of increased health concerns they worry. Who will get mom or dad to the doctor? The potential for telehealth and remotee patient monitoring (RPM) in terms of its impact on aging in place is enormous. It helps with tracking vital signs, communicating with physicians and their offices, and even receiving on-the-spot care via video chat.

Telehealth makes life easier.

Only if it works though, and if it’s easily accessible. We know this to be true, not just intuitively.

McKinsey’s May 2020 report showed a significant uptick in telehealth between 2019 and May of 2020… from 11% of American adults utilizing it to 46% using it as a replacement for in-office visits. And that’s just in May. COVID had barely reared its ugly head by then.

But what about seniors? If someone didn’t grow up using Internet, then will they be less comfortable with utilizing the technology?

Not necessarily. There has been a massive increase in use of telehealth from those on Medicare. Telehealth visits rose from about 10,000 virtual visits per week to about 1.7 million per week, with older Americans comprising a significant percentage of that total.

And from now on, according to AARP, 20 – 30% of all medical care is expected to be delivered digitally. And that’s good, in part because according to a study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, patients heal better at home.

Better Access. Better Communication.

What then can we do to make seniors feel comfortable with the technology?

Address their concerns: access and communication.

There are two kinds of barriers to telehealth access: access to the Internet; and accessible/easy-to-use technology. Internet access restrictions are worse in rural areas. In fact, nearly one quarter of all rural residents do not have access to reliable broadband (FCC 2019).

That is changing rapidly, however, with public/private partnerships and both federal and state funding increases. Healthcare associations can influence, however, by putting more pressure on government agencies to assure equal access. Once broadband to the home is available, however, raises the question of cost. Will fees associated with adoption be palatable to seniors on a restricted budget? For some, no. But just as many are reviewing cost of care, learning that telehealth is covered may encourage them to try.

Accessible technology – hardware and software — is changing rapidly.

Hardware has become easier to use, with voice automation technology and touchscreen input. From inexpensive tablets to devices such as Amazon Echo, it is easier than ever to make the technology connection.

Software, on the other hand, has taken a bit longer to evolve. The interface that physicians choose for their patients can make the difference between accepting the technology and rejecting it. At DocsInk, we created a user interface that makes it simple to get onboard.

In fact, it’s a simple four step process:

1. The physician’s office simply sends an email notification to the patient with instructions on creating a unique password.

2. The patient clicks on the link and downloads the DocsInk patient care app.

3. The app walks them, step-by-step, through a simple onboarding process.

4. Within minutes, they are connected and sharing health data with their provider in real-time.

Simplicity is key. The bottom line is that the provider should select the solution that simplifies technology adoption not only for the practice but for the patient as well.

Bridge the gap between patient and technology.

Not all seniors are put off by telehealth. Not all patients are afraid of technology. Most all patients do need technology support, however!

It’s important for the staff to understand where each patient is, individually, in terms of how technology is perceived. Is it a boon or a barrier? Are they welcoming the change or pushing back against it?

Take the time before the first telehealth visit to offer insight into what the visit will be like. Provide a written checklist that reassures the patient that they will have an experience that works.

The American Psychological Association Services posted a list of things that can be done to make it easier for older adults to adapt to telehealth. You can access that list by clicking here.

The right direction.

The pandemic pushed us to take seriously adoption of telehealth for home health. According to Andrew Gettinger, M.D., chief clinical officer in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it has pushed us in the right direction.

“This new ecosystem is potentially far more powerful than going to see a doctor once or twice a year. Home health is very rich and provides a whole new way of caring for folks.”

It’s up to us to make it easy enough to work. If your system is lacking, DocsInk can help.

To learn more about DocsInk and our solutions, visit us at www.DocsInk.com or contact us here.

Healthcare and its Consumers:                                                3 Reasons Patients Take Charge in 2021

Healthcare and its Consumers: 3 Reasons Patients Take Charge in 2021

Healthcare Consumerism.
It’s a term representing a time that has finally come.

Thanks in large part to the impacts of the pandemic, the world of patient care has been upended. While COVID-19 has caused big changes in all industries, healthcare is certainly near the top of the list.

As a result, patients are more empowered.

According to Patient Engagement HIT, almost 2/3 (64%) of patients are expected to change healthcare providers if their current provider fails to meet their expectations. That is a big number, and it will have a big impact on the business side of your practice. How so?

Firstly, physician shopping has become pervasive. As medical practices market more, patients become savvier themselves and learn that it is easy to find a new provider.

Secondly, there’s a trend toward ease of navigation. Users expect onboarding to be simple, and the tools to be adaptable. Patients that can’t easily connect with their provider are likely to look for a new one.

And finally, today’s tech-savvy patients are aware that the healthcare industry is capable of facilitating a better, more user-friendly experience. Subsequently, they expect more from practitioners.

What Patients Want

Distancing and unnecessary contact is not something unique to 2020 but will follow us into 2021. Patients have learned to depend more on technology and less on wheels for just about everything. They’ve become familiar with remote care and prefer telehealth whenever it is a reasonable option.

To address patient retention, here are three things healthcare consumers are looking for:

1. Control Over Their Time

For decades, patients have expressed frustration over the difficultly of obtaining a medical appointment. Once made, patients on average show up on time – due to numerous possibilities, the physician often doesn’t, and the waiting game begins.

 

Their demand? No more anxiety and frustration over waiting an hour or more in a doctor’s office just to be seen. Not anymore.

In fact, many are wishing away the waiting room entirely. The idea of sitting in a room full of sick people for an extended stretch of time is outdated in part thanks to virtual waiting rooms.

They make the process significantly more efficient and comfortable for patients. This particular feature of the DocsInk platform has been met with applause from both patient and practitioner. Automated check-ins can be customized for better doctor-patient process alignment resulting in better time management, and higher scores on patient satisfaction surveys.

2. Virtual Expectations

Between January and June of 2020, telemedicine visits rose by 2000%.
You read that right. Not 200%, but 2000%. The doctor-patient experience has been revolutionized.

According to Harvard Business Review, telemedicine is highly effective for younger, digitally savvy patients. However, seniors and the frail often struggle to use the technology.

 

It is incumbent upon the healthcare provider to determine the level of success each patient can have with different types of remote patient monitoring and telehealth solutions.

While Google Meet and Zoom are second nature to many, some physicians’ groups found that a secure telehealth platform built for the healthcare industry, such as DocsInk’s, is better suited to those hesitant to use technology.

3. Better Communication, Improved Continuity of Care

Chronic disease management has taken a turn. While remote patient monitoring (RPM) has been in place for several years, the standardization of telehealth has pushed those with chronic conditions to expect more access to physicians when needed.

Utilization of RPM in situations such as this is only logical. Consider the enormous cost of high-acuity healthcare encounters for patient, payer and provider. Yet also consider the higher cost of not getting care. A recent survey found 10% of respondents were so worried about the impact of the pandemic that they would forego care altogether. This is where telehealth offers control over environment—not having to be in public—and subsequently improves health outcomes.

Yet, beyond online appointments, there’s a new expectation of access that comes out of texting and instant messaging. This is one more way that DocsInk’s platform shines, as it makes it simple for patient or provider to message in real-time. Sudden onset of sharp pain may once have sent patients to the ER. Now, however, they can start by engaging in real-time messaging with the practice and perhaps forego this costly experience, avoiding hospital readmittance fees and improving health outcomes.

The New Era of Healthcare

The public recognizes this is a new era of healthcare. COVID-19, while still rampant and frightening, has instituted a number of positive cultural changes. Patients are more willing to be accountable for their own health, and this often means spending less time in a physician’s office. Practices that embrace this new world are the practices that will succeed.

If you’re still searching for a better way to serve and retain your patients, let’s talk. DocsInk may be the solution you’re looking for.

To learn more about DocsInk’s solutions, email or call 888.577.7409.

RPM – The Right Tool for COVID-19 and Beyond

RPM – The Right Tool for COVID-19 and Beyond

Remote physiologic monitoring (RPM) technology, also called remote patient monitoring, is playing a vital role during the current pandemic. It excels in connecting patients to care teams, providing real-time clinical data needed to control symptom and disease progression. As COVID-19 continues to spread, our country faces the unprecedented challenge of managing health in a safe and effective manner.

Time and resources are valuable commodities for all healthcare organizations — especially as medical professionals battle this pandemic. Clinicians adopt RPM to monitor, assess and address patients’ health, instantly receiving vitals and data from thermometers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors. With real-time insights come fast response, better prioritization and triage of patients, and faster delivery of healthcare when every minute counts.

Patients no longer have to rely on their own discretion as to whether their rising temperature or shortness of breath warrant a visit to the nearest emergency room. With RPM technologies, they have confidence that they are being monitored; a change in their health status will be immediately conveyed to their care team. RPM expedites the delivery of medical care in a safe and virtual manner, as face-to-face treatment now poses too large of a risk potential in many cases. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released new regulations covering these services for patients with acute conditions.

CPT Codes and RPM Adoption

The recent healthcare crisis put a spotlight on the value that tools like RPM and wearable devices in the management of patient outcomes. It was in 2019, however, that their use became more common. That is when CMS published several new RPM Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. These CPT codes more clearly improve reimbursement for the work typically performed around RPM service programs. This includes issuing devices to the patient and training them on its use. It also supports electronic transmissions, monitoring clinical data, and interactively communicating with patients.

These newly released codes successfully boosted physician adoption. In Spyglass Consulting Group’s 2019 survey, 88% of healthcare providers reported either purchasing or evaluating RPM technologies. Providers have found RPM valuable in managing high-risk populations. It also led to expansion of chronic care management programs, aiding in the successful transition to value-based care models. RPM is highly effective in treating prevalent diseases, such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. Studies demonstrate that they play a significant role in substantially reducing readmission rates and overall costs of care.

In 2020, CMS further relaxed their RPM guidelines. Clinical staff can now perform these services under the supervising physician’s general supervision based on CMS’ incident-to guidelines. This allows care providers to work efficiently, freeing up physician time for more complex treatments and procedures. It also expands the potential business models for RPM programs, as the physician doesn’t have to be in the same physical location while the services are performed. 

Medical Benefits of RPM

DocsInk uniquely positions medical professionals to successfully implement an RPM program. It simplifies the day to day use of remote patient monitoring for medical professionals by seamlessly connecting to any wearable device. Additionally, it offers customizable clinical alert notifications, facilitates templated patient surveys, streamlines interactive patient communications, and instantly bills for all professional services rendered.

We are all working to gain control over the global health crisis. Yet we must simultaneously navigate value-based care, manage chronically-ill patient populations, and provide general health coaching. That’s why we created a new solution. DocsInk’s RPM solution offers a strong ROI, improved workflow efficiencies, and the tools to achieve patient goals.

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CCM Solution by DocsInk Achieves Pharmacist eCare Plan, Level 3, Active Medication Capability

CCM Solution by DocsInk Achieves Pharmacist eCare Plan, Level 3, Active Medication Capability

DocsInk is the leading Chronic Care Management (CCM) and collaborative communication platform and because of this, Healthcare stakeholders nationwide rely on it. Therefore, it is with great fanfare we are able to announce we’ve achieved Level 3 (active medication) capability from Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) for the Pharmacist eCare Plan initiative.

What are the implications?

Firstly, let’s discuss the eCare Plan. The Pharmacist eCare Plan has become the standard for interoperability and exchange of information. It allows pharmacies to better coordinate care, and addresses active medication lists as well as drug therapy problems, gaps in care and interventions and patient-centered goals. The plan itself has some bona fides. It was developed in conjunction with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and is endorsed by The Pharmacy Health Information Technology Collaborative (PHIT). Details are available by clicking here.

It follows, then, that the country’s leader in CCM and collaborative communication would be on the ground floor of the offering.

The big news? DocsInk is the only technology company with a CCM solution that has met Level 3 for the Pharmacist eCare Plan. As a result, community pharmacies using DocInk’s application can share care plans electronically with other care team providers. And, Pharmacists enjoy reduced costs, improved health outcomes, and faster payment for work performed.

Julie Thomas, DocsInk CEO, had this to say:

“Obtaining Level 3 demonstrates at least two of our commitments. First, it reflects our dedication to promoting interoperability, and secondarily it indicates effectiveness in sharing patient data in real-time. Furthermore, as pharmacies expand clinical services ‘beyond the fill,’ we will partner with them to increase revenue via compensation for care interventions.”

What Pharmacists Think about DocsInk’s CCM Solution

CPESN Luminary Amina Abubaker, PharmD, is owner of RxClinic Pharmacy and Avant Institute of Clinicians in Charlotte, NC. Here’s what she says:
“DocsInk is part of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) grant-funded program. So, as we use their CCM platform, we value them as innovators. They share our passion for integrating clinical services into community pharmacies. As a result, it helps us be integral members of the patient’s care team.”

Troy Trygstad is the VP of Pharmacy Programs at Community Care of North Carolina. “DocsInk is a great example of what the eCare Plan is meant to be,” he said. “Starting with the Chronic Care Management documentation, we appreciate the activity submission and care plan coordination. The active medication list capability is an essential component. It transcends both pharmacy and practice, so they can easily reconcile medications and work together collaboratively.”

Finally, Pharmacies that currently use DocsInk’s CCM software have access to DocsInk’s eCare Plan submission at no extra expense. Most importantly, the eCare Plan is available as a stand-alone solution as are all features of DocsInk’s application,

About DocsInk

Medical care teams and clinicians love DocsInk. That’s because the app addresses administrative, billing, secure communication, data-sharing and clinical work-flow needs associated with collaborative-care models. Moreover, the company integrates standard HL7 and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). Subsequently, it streamlines processes, and includes:

  • mobile charge capture
  • secure messaging
  • integrated on-­call calendar
  • referral/consult management
  • chronic care management
  • enhanced pharmacy services
  • automated admission and discharge notifications
  • transitional care management
  • and finally, real-time reporting with dashboard views.

DocsInk’s mobile application is available for download in iTunes and Google Play. Additionally, you can learn more about DocsInk or schedule a demo at www.docsink.com.

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