Behavioral Health in the ED

A new decade is here, and with it comes some promising changes for telepsychiatry. In the coming year, we can expect to see increasing reimbursement with the start of CMS coverage and new billing codes from the American Medical Association. Patients and providers are also becoming more familiar with telehealth, driving up both the demand and the market potential.

Increasing Reimbursement Levels

At the start of the new year, CMS policies that increase choices and benefits for patients took effect. Medicare now offers more coverage for telehealth services than ever before, allowing telehealth providers to treat an even broader population.

These new provisions also add strength to the Substance Use–Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act. By further removing geographic limitations to telepsychiatry services for patients with substance abuse disorders and any co-occurring mental health disorders, these patients can now receive the care they deserve regardless of their location.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma called the move “a historic step in bringing innovative technology to Medicare beneficiaries” in a recent press release.

New Reimbursement Codes

Starting this year, hospitals have more opportunities for reimbursement with telepsychiatry, thanks to new billing codes. Five new codes, and four add-on codes, are specific for health behavior assessments and intervention and are intended to increase collaboration and multidisciplinary team approaches using telehealth services.

Increasing Telehealth Usage

Telehealth services are considered to be one of the most adaptable technologies to deliver health education and information. Over the past five years, the use of telehealth services has increased by 340%. Forbes projects by the end of 2020, “Progressive health systems will start to view telehealth as a standard of care option for primary virtual consultation.” 

Increasingly, hospitals are seeing the value of telepsychiatry services as mental health-related emergency visits continue to rise. As we have covered in the past, often emergency physicians and staff do not have the training or facilities to properly diagnose and care for mental health patients. In a survey of emergency department providers, concerns such as “We need help with this patient’s psychiatric needs—we simply aren’t qualified,” and “I am unsure if we should treat, admit, or transport this patient. What are my options?” were common themes.

Additionally, the survey found that emergency personnel are “very comfortable” with the concept of using telepsychiatry consultations in the emergency department. The providers believed that 50% of their patients needed a psychiatry consultation, but 61% of ERs do not have psychiatric staff.

Growing Market Share

The global market for telemedicine was $21.56 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach $93.45 billion by 2028. A staggering amount of growth. The telepsychiatry market alone is projected to account for $300 million by 2025, a growth of 26%.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that almost a quarter of US consumers used telehealth in 2018, and those numbers continued to rise in 2019. Even astronauts are taking advantage of this new model of care. Two months into a six-month mission, one NASA astronaut learned of a potentially dangerous blood clot. Thanks to telemedicine, treatment was successful.

2020 brings many opportunities for improving patient care. At MindCare, our New Year’s resolution is to bring better mental health services and increased access to patients around the country. Our platform allows hospitals, emergency departments, and outpatient clinics to offer valuable mental health resources that patients might not have access to otherwise.

The need for better mental health services is critical. MindCare’s platform can help mitigate costs by seamlessly integrating with existing hospital systems. Our team of distinguished, board-certified professionals is ready to work collaboratively with your team to deliver the best quality care to your patients. Wishing you all a healthy and productive 2020!