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.

Wearables and Virtual Care: Engaging Patients, Improving Outcomes

Wearables and Virtual Care: Engaging Patients, Improving Outcomes

When Congress passed its 2018 bill expanding Medicare coverage to include telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM), options for delivery of patient care expanded. The government and insurance approval set the stage: clinicians could now offer virtual care via RPM and telehealth. It was officially a viable, safe, and effective alternative to traditional services and wearable technology is at the forefront of this healthcare industry change.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early in 2020 further spurred adoption of RPM and telehealth. It became the primary solution for delivering care outside typical brick and mortar offices. Telehealth became the answer to the question: how can we protect the health of our nation’s population?

With government, insurance, and patients on board, we are well on our way to widespread implementation of these technologies. A 2019 study conducted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) found that 68% of physicians strongly intended to use RPM. Now is the time for the remaining 32% to fully understand the positive impact that remote access to real-time data can have, specifically as it pertains to overall wellness, behavior change, and the treatment of both acute and chronic illnesses.

    Consumers Like Wearable Technologies – Apple Health. Google Fit. Samsung Health.

    While wearables come from many brands and in many forms, most people rely on at least one of these platforms to help them interpret the data their digital coach offers. More than one in four Americans currently use at least one wearable device. According to IDC, wrist-worn wearables are projected to increase to 105.3 million units by 2023.

    These growing numbers demonstrate that consumers increasingly have a keen interest in taking some level of personal responsibility for their health. Clinicians have found that patient engagement is a critical component in meeting clinical goals and improved health outcomes.

    According to the World Health Organization, 60% of factors related to individual health and quality of life are correlated to lifestyle choices. When medical professionals take advantage of technologies already adopted by their patients, they encourage positive habits and provide the feedback necessary for best results.

    The combination of wearable devices and doctor/patient engagement has numerous benefits, including:

    • Correctly taking prescriptions
    • Getting enough exercise
    • Reducing stress

    If people, then, are interested in being more involved, how can physicians better leverage this opportunity? How can they encourage these benefits for patients who are high risk due to acute or chronic illness?

    It’s become a simple answer: incorporate RPM to promote proactive medical care, accessing real-time data and intervening when necessary, based on changes/declines in patient’s vitals and other physiologic metrics.

    Impacting Crucial Metrics

    Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is shown to impact numerous factors, from curtailing recurrent rehospitalizations to better patient/provider care coordination. The holy grail, of course, is improving patient outcomes and reducing costs of care, while balancing workflow efficiency. All this can happen with the application of affordable RPM and telehealth technology.

    • Outpatient services is easily expanded. This is good news for all, but especially for underserved populations and patients in rural areas.
    • Reducing hospitalizations and hospital stays is one of the biggest demonstrable effects. A University of Pittsburgh study from 2020 indicated a 76% reduction in readmissions when RPM is utilized.
    • Improved patient outcomes are seen in more than 49% of those using this technology to manage health, according to the University of Pittsburgh study.
    • Reduced costs of care are reported by many independent studies, which specifically show a net savings of over $5k per patient per year for cardiac patients.
    • Improved compliance is near the top of the list of benefits for both critically and chronically ill patients. Clinical goals are met and conditions improve.
    • Patients more engaged in their health tend to remain healthier. Patient knowledge can result in fewer invasive procedures, fewer missed appointments, and authentic discussions on care options – all of which lead to better clinical outcomes.

    Make It Easy To Implement, Easier To Measure

    As with all science, measurement is the only way to improve. But it’s more than having a watch that tells you things about your health. Patients benefit from clinicians who can connect with them about their daily wellness monitoring. They also benefit from the capability to pair with medical devices which leads to disease management and recovery. The key is to simplify the implementation for both physicians and patients.

    A recent addition to the DocsInk platform for example, provides the ability for clinicians to synch with over 200 wearables. This kind of accessibility takes the pressure off care givers and office managers. It also aligns the devices patients have already invested in with the platform used in the office. Giving patients the flexibility to use the device of their choice makes them more likely to remain engaged in its use.

    In addition, when clinicians need to write an order for specific RPM devices to manage disease process(es), DocsInk connects to countless wearable devices to provide real-time data, notifications and alerts to promote best outcomes.

     Many physicians have historically been concerned about what to do with all this data. How do they begin to sort through all the information to get to insights about the direction of patients’ health? DocsInk research found the best approach is to customize the information being analyzed. Then, deliver only the specific information requested back to each clinician. That data then alerts the appropriate clinical team member to initiate patient touch points and interventions.

     While devices can monitor everything from respiratory rate, oxygen levels, pulse, blood pressure, body temperature and more, we understand that every patient and each provider that cares for them are different. That’s where DocsInk shines. 

    Now Is The Right Time

    When the pharmaceutical industry began its meteoric rise in the 1950s and 1960s, the populations began searching for the next pill that would make them feel better. Today’s patient relies on technology more than pills as they proactively participate in their own health.

    This monumental shift in how consumers approach health management results in an entirely new class of healthcare consumers who expect to be able to solve care problems without an in-person appointment. Patients, now more than ever, look for the option of remote care as they choose their medical providers.

    Now is the time to take advantage of new approaches. Advancements in this field had been on the sensor technology in consumer products, but now there are technologies that provide improved ROI for the medical industry, in addition to providing better patient care.

    Now is the time to implement RPM. The groundwork is laid with more than 284 million internet users in the USA – and that climbs daily with pandemic-inspired rural broadband implementation. Factors like global physician shortages and the evolving healthcare policy landscape should inspire pursuit.

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

     

    Click Here to learn more about DocsInk’s RPM solution

    Telehealth and COVID19 – General Update

    Telehealth and COVID19 – General Update

    The healthcare industry continues to navigate the challenges caused by COVID-19. Clinicians are working tirelessly to provide high-quality care via Telehealth rather than face to face. Yet it seems that now, more than ever, there is a need for simple, secure, and reliable technology to connect patients to their care teams.

    To that end, telehealth services guidelines have been relaxed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), State Medicaid programs, and many major insurance payers including Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Healthcare have responded. This does two things: firstly, it simplifies reimbursement, and secondly, it expands patient access to care.

    Telehealth changes

    On March 6, 2020, CMS began paying physicians and qualified non-provider professionals (QPPs) for all telehealth visits. For example, 80 additional codes were added for use during the public health emergency.

    Meanwhile, there are other highlights of note:

    • Telehealth is now available to HPSA areas (federally defined rural areas);
    • Patients may receive telehealth visits at home;
    • Providers can get paid as they would if the patient was in the office;
    • CMS will not include “established patient” audits with the billing provider. This allows clinicians to bill for medical services for new patients.

    Here is another conundrum. Telehealth services are typically subject to CMS’ standard co-insurance and deductible amounts. As a result, Medicare patients can be left with a balance due. However, reducing the amounts owed by Medicare beneficiaries can violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the civil monetary penalty rule, and exclusion laws.

    Consequently, new guidance has been issued. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has determined that providers should not be subject to these sanctions. This allows for reduced or eliminated beneficiary cost share for telehealth or e-visits.

    In addition, CMS is recognizing new virtual check-in codes for communication-based technology services (CBTS). These CBTS codes include remote evaluation of pre-recorded patient information (CPT code G2010) and virtual check-ins (CPT code G2012). Each has an average allowable amount of between $12 – $15.

    New Resources

    CMS has published two valuable resources. We recommend both: General Medicine Telehealth and Telemedicine Toolkit; and Medicare Learning Network (MLN) Booklet on Telehealth Services. They offer details on telehealth services and billing requirements in response to the COVID-19 health crisis.

    One last recommended reading: COVID-19 State Medicaid & CHIP Telehealth Toolkit. Released in April, its goal is to expand telehealth services as the preferred means of delivering and receiving healthcare.

    Who is DocsInk

    DocsInk differentiates its software from the competition by simultaneously addressing the fiscal, communication, and connectivity needs of medical professionals. Delivered as Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”), DocsInk is improving the way technology integrates with the various workflows of the healthcare industry. By utilizing the SMART on FHIR platform and protocols, DocsInk has set its platform to create truly integrated and system agnostic services with EHR/PM systems. Beyond our technology, that is native to Mac, PC, iOS, and Android, our team is dedicated to providing customer support and a user experience that is second to none.

    Today, DocsInk provides simple, effective solutions that improve the speed, efficiency, accuracy, and adaptable methods in the delivery of patient care not just as a Telehealth Solution but also Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Mobile Charge Capture. To learn more visit us at www.DocsInk.com.

    Telehealth and COVID19 – DocsInk is Your Solution

    Telehealth and COVID19 – DocsInk is Your Solution

    At DocsInk we understand that COVID-19 overshadows anything previously seen or experienced throughout the modern history of the world. Fears of both the known and unknown continues to wreak havoc on even the healthiest populations around the globe. Every individual is impacted, causing us to rethink the way we live, work, and care for one another. Due to this, new solutions for each have bombarded the healthcare industry with Telehealth being one of the number one buzz words.

    Recently, the leading topic throughout the healthcare industry has been the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care. Lowering the costs of care and improving health outcomes are still vital goals. However, healthcare professionals must now focus on finding new ways to deliver medical care when treating patients face-to-face is not always safe or possible making Telehealth the most viable solution.

    These new and daunting challenges prompted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue regulatory waivers and guidelines. Telehealth is at the forefront of preferred and recommended treatment options. It uses interactive electronic communications to provide clinical services to patients in lieu of in-person visits.

    Uncomplicating Telehealth

    Telehealth is an effective alternative to brick and mortar office visits, when quick to adopt and easy to deploy. Healthcare heroes are working tirelessly to care for patients with acute and chronic conditions in the toughest of circumstances. Their technology, then, must be an uncomplicated and reliable solution. It must streamline their efforts and connect care teams to their patients, when and where they need it most.

    Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and Virtual Check-Ins work in tandem with telehealth. These are effective methods to impact patient care during the pandemic. DocsInk, a leading healthcare communication technology, delivers these services in a uniquely simple and secure manner.

    Practices around the nation benefit from the ability to virtualize their practice in minutes using DocsInk’s One-Tap Telehealth Solution. Our secure system lets patients use audio or video, and within seconds become linked to their providers. No need to download software or applications. Yet, it has all the systems in one place to create a seamless workflow for full continuity of care.

    Telehealth Benefits

    Videos provide greater insight into problems patients have trouble explaining. Now they can be used as part of an electronic patient care plan and imported into health information exchanges. And because they are secure, they can be shared with care teams and caregivers.

    DocsInk integrates an appointment dashboard and scheduler. It offers secure messaging features, and the billing/charge capture functionality differentiate the solution. It’s the best way to create a seamless workflow for streamlined and reimbursable visits.

    Patient monitoring is now a critical component of any successful telehealth solution. DocsInk’s Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) Solution, also known as Remote Physiological Monitoring, relays real-time patient data back to clinicians . Particularly in the middle of the health crisis, medical providers rely on RPM to monitor a patient’s pulmonary function, temperature, blood pressure, and other vital changes in symptoms and disease progression.

    The ability to easily launch a Telehealth session between provider and patient enables RPM data to become actionable. Expedite critical medical decision making. Change treatment plans and medication management. Help patients avoid preventable declines in their health status.

    CMS has recognized RPM to be such a critical component to patient care that they changed their regulations. Patients with acute conditions and those suffering from one or more chronic conditions are now allowed to receive these services.

    Virtual Care

    DocsInk is more than just a telehealth solution. The Virtual Care options, such as automated Check-Ins and Customized Surveys, give clinicians the unique ability to monitor their patients and improve their overall health and well-being. Customize electronic check-in intervals with DocsInk, and personalize the questions you ask.

    Popular use cases include post-discharge check in’s, post-surgery questionnaires, standardized mental health scale tests, etc. Clinicians use these tools to mold the DocsInk technology to fit their workflows, protocols, and patient needs.

    Beyond the unparalleled functionality and ease of use, DocsInk also does not overlook the importance of data privacy. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) waived the enforcement of HIPAA regulations, yet we remain committed to privacy and security. Both providers and patients can depend on us to protect them from personal, financial, reputation, and operational harm.

    DocsInk is unique. We securely connect patients and providers, using simple technology built for improving patient lives, streamlining practice workflows, and revenue generation. DocsInk is the only choice for HIPAA Compliant communication-based technology and virtual care. Especially when time, money, and health matter.

    Is Telemedicine the New Normal?

    Is Telemedicine the New Normal?

    The landscape of healthcare has dramatically changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. E-visits have replaced traditional Doctor’s offices visits. Mobile devices are the norm now that quarantines have pushed the fast forward button on the adoption of telemedicine.

    Before the pandemic, Telemedicine use was limited. Lower-level services, such as diabetic teaching and hospital-based specialty visits in rural areas, were its domain. Although accepted in theory, providers and patients alike were slow to warm up to virtual care. Medicare only covered telemedicine visits in very limited situations; reimbursement rates from both government and private payers were very low.

    And then along came COVID-19.

    Everything changed. Telemedicine guidelines relaxed.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began paying for telemedicine visits at the same rate as in-person visits. They relaxed many rigid guidelines which made virtual visits more accessible for Medicare patients.

    Private insurance companies quickly followed suit, which led to an onslaught of new telehealth visits. The Wall Street Journal reported that CMS telemedicine visits increased from 100,000 to 300,000 per week as of March 28, 2020, with an expectation that it will continue to grow at a steady rate.

    Frost and Sullivan research reported total telemedicine visits increased by 50% nationwide, and expected to hit nearly 1 billion by the end of 2020.

    The question remains: what will happen when the COVID-19 crisis is over? No one knows how many of the new telemedicine administrative guidelines and reimbursement rates will remain in effect. Yet, it appears safe to say that virtual visits will remain a viable treatment option.

    Virtual healthcare aligns well with the value-based-care mandate. If that continues, providers and payers will find great value in quality care which boasts efficiencies and lowers costs. Patients appreciate the convenience of receiving healthcare when and where they choose, without wait times, missed work, or transportation complications.

    The Genie’s Out of the Bottle.

    Seema Verman told the Wall Street Journal just that. A CMS administrator, Verma was adamant. “… the advent of telehealth has been completely accelerated. It’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back.”

    In short, telemedicine is here to stay.

    Who is DocsInk

    DocsInk differentiates its software from the competition by simultaneously addressing the fiscal, communication, and connectivity needs of medical professionals. Delivered as Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”), DocsInk is improving the way technology integrates with the various workflows of the healthcare industry. By utilizing the SMART on FHIR platform and protocols, DocsInk has set its platform to create truly integrated and system agnostic services with EHR/PM systems. Beyond our technology, that is native to Mac, PC, iOS, and Android, our team is dedicated to providing customer support and a user experience that is second to none.

    Today, DocsInk provides simple, effective solutions that improve the speed, efficiency, accuracy, and adaptable methods in the delivery of patient care not just as a Telehealth Solution but also Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Mobile Charge Capture. To learn more visit us at www.DocsInk.com.