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.

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.

One Patient’s Perspective

One Patient’s Perspective

Working for DocsInk

As marketing director for DocsInk, I’m excited to work in an atmosphere of innovation and collaboration, but my focus is usually on the product and business itself. However, I’m sometimes reminded that what we do goes beyond the product, impacting the lives of real people. COVID-19 has pushed our healthcare system to its limits, and because of this caregivers need integrated, efficient technology solutions more than ever. I recently spoke to a patient who expressed his frustration connecting with his doctor:

2020 has been a hard year for me, health wise. I’ve had nagging respiratory issues that have cost lost wages and sparked COVID fears. I’ve been tested three times, all negative, but had to miss several weeks of work in order to meet quarantine requirements. In the last few months, persistent symptoms have prompted frequent telehealth visits. These visits have often resulted in frustration due to the technology being used.

In my daily life, I’m constantly connected to coworkers, friends, and businesses through my phone and laptop. Social media and e-commerce are slick and seamless; why is my telehealth app so dated and clunky? This is a large organization with hundreds of doctors, they should have access to the latest tools! Every visit is plagued by technical glitches—sometimes resulting in abandoning video chat for phone calls—and the doctors are consulting other devices or paper notes for my records. I have electronic notes on my laptop; why is my doctor wasting time fumbling for them? While I understand caregivers are under tremendous strain this year, my health issues are putting real pressure on me and my family. It just seems to me that updating their systems would help them help me AND relieve some of the pressure they’re feeling.

What it means to me

Hearing stories like this reminds me that “improving patient outcomes” is not just an abstraction. Sure, streamlining the process of telehealth improves efficiency, but that efficiency has a real impact on real people. And, at this point in the game, not using the technology best suited to respond to the needs this pandemic has demanded has an even bigger impact on patients’ lives.

2020 has provided doctors and patients alike with ample challenges; DocsInk ensures that your telehealth solution doesn’t have to be one of them. 

If you would like to learn more about DocsInk, please visit us at www.DocsInk.com.

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

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.

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.