As the pandemic continues to disrupt traditional care models, behavioral and integrated health care practices are ramping up their virtual treatment options. Telehealth has been successful at treating physical conditions beyond standard, low-acuity health concerns, and behavioral health is following suit. To best provide telehealth to behavioral health patients, clinics should understand the key similarities and differences between the virtual treatment of physical and mental health and how their EHRs can impact the quality of care.

Not “One and Done”

Although some physical health concerns may require multiple check-ins with patients, behavioral health is more of an ongoing care model. For most low-to-medium acuity patients for physical health, they consult with their provider once through telehealth, they fill their prescription, and they’re unlikely to return for the same issue once it has been resolved.

Conversely, behavioral health care patients tend to require more hands-on care, especially when it comes to mood disorders, addiction, psychosis and PTSD. Historically, behavioral health was ahead of physical health in terms of virtual services, with providers and nonprofits offering access to therapy lines and suicide hotlines, but there was still no mass-market solution for virtual behavioral health. Like several innovations, widespread adoption of behavioral telemedicine is being driven by a crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increased Provider Reach

Just like physical health, telemedicine is opening the door for providers to treat a broader range of patients. What was once limited to the patient and provider’s immediate geographic area has now increased to include as many states as these providers are licensed to practice in. For example, if a psychiatrist lives in Arizona, but is licensed in both Arizona and Utah, that doctor can treat patients from both states through virtual care. This is a critical benefit of telehealth, especially as the number of behavioral health patients increases due to COVID-19.

Similarly, behavioral health benefits from the virtual meeting room component offered by some HIPAA compliant services. With this functionality, behavioral health can be better integrated into the treatment of physical health. Through telehealth, a patient can speak with their primary care doctor, then immediately transfer to another virtual meeting room with their mental health provider. This feature will prove to be critical for the future of integrated health care, but only if the clinic’s EHR is interoperable with its telehealth component. When the two technologies work symbiotically, a patient’s team of providers can access a broader scope of patient data to better understand the patient’s overall health.

One-Size-Fits-All Doesn’t Work

Sadly, the majority of telehealth solutions offer one approach that’s meant to work for all clinics, regardless of whether the technology is interoperable with the clinic’s EHR. Legacy EHR providers knew they needed to implement telehealth quickly, but the hasty approach has left several clinics with complicated, poorly-customizable and time-wasting telehealth tools. By failing to focus on flexibility and efficiency, telehealth for both physical and behavioral health can turn into just as much of a hindrance as it is an asset.

Telehealth, especially when it comes to behavioral health care, needs to be easily implementable and adjustable to meet each clinic’s unique needs. With behavioral health care, patients need to feel as comfortable as possible, and this includes technology that makes patients feel more at-ease. With that, clinics that use the telehealth feature of Axiom EHR software can choose from a single-source login (patient and provider), enable group therapy and provide telehealth rooms with other provider networks, all depending on their immediate needs.

Is your clinic ready for superior virtual behavioral health care? Contact us today to learn how we can help your clinic implement Axiom EHR with integrated telehealth in 30 days or less.

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