Access to mental health care has been a growing problem. An estimated 40% of patients are seeing their primary care physicians for mental health issues, and two-thirds of them have difficulty accessing psychiatric care.
The US Department of Health and Human Services found that the current psychiatric workforce today is around 45,580 physicians, and needs to increase by more than 2,500, or 6.4%, to meet today’s demands. If trends don’t change, this shortage could double by 2025.
The current psychiatric workforce is struggling to keep up with demands. Over 60% of psychiatrists are older than 55, one of the highest proportions among all medical specialties. If new physicians don’t enter the trade, this aging workforce will further increase shortages as more psychiatrists retire.
The increasing demands for mental health care also come at a time of increasing shortages of outpatient and inpatient programs. Lack of access to mental health services results in significant treatment delays, reduced care quality, low patient satisfaction rates, and poorer patient outcomes. Additionally, psychiatric care is unevenly distributed around the US, leaving 77% of counties underserved and 55% of states with serious shortage areas.
Increasing the number of mental health workers is only one step in what needs to be a multi-pronged approach to increase care for patients. A lasting solution will not rely on just one change, but instead requires support from a range of stakeholders.
The National Council for Behavioral Health lists five areas that need to be addressed:
- Workforce development
- Improving efficiency of service delivery
- Reducing burdensome regulations
- Broader implementation of innovative models
- Adoption of novel reimbursement methods
Telepsychiatry can help in all these areas.
At MindCare, our goal is to provide excellent psychiatric care to patients around the country. That’s why we offer education services around mental health to other healthcare professionals such as ER physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators. By increasing education, we can work together to ensure a better care environment for patients with behavioral health needs.
Improving efficiency of service delivery
Telepsychiatry is helping to set new standards of care by increasing access, helping to facilitate follow-up care, and offering better care coordination. Enhanced care management through better coordination and follow-up leads to improved outcomes and reduces the amount of repeat ER visits for mental health patients, saving both time and money for patients.
Reducing burdensome regulations
Recently, policy changes were put in place to help increase access to mental health services. As of March, providers are now allowed to bill for patients seen at home via videoconferencing, without needing an originating site, regardless of their location. Since these changes were implemented, the use of virtual healthcare has skyrocketed, with nearly 46% of patients now using it.
Broader implementation of innovative models
Telepsychiatry helps mental health providers expand their reach by enabling them to treat patients all over the country – helping those in underserved communities quickly and easily gain access to experts they otherwise might not have been able to see.
This model doesn’t just benefit patients though. It also gives providers a chance to expand their practice without furthering burnout levels. Telepsychiatry can help lighten that burden and help mental health providers achieve a better balance with flexible scheduling and reduced travel time. And reducing travel leaves more time for seeing patients, without spending more hours away from family and life.
Adoption of novel reimbursement methods
Decreased regulations have helped patients access care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal officials waived regulations that prevented physicians from practicing across state lines, paving the way to increased access in a time of great need. Many commercial health insurers have also expanded access to telehealth services by broadening their list of in-network providers and reducing or eliminating cost-sharing.
MindCare’s team is ready to support the growing need for telepsychiatry services. Our system seamlessly integrates into specialty clinics and hospitals, empowering our partners to provide care for even the most challenging mental health cases and improving self-management for patients with chronic conditions. Our integrated approach to care and advanced technology platform is customizable to your needs and allows MindCare to be up and running in your Emergency Department or clinic quickly and efficiently – providing cost-effective mental health care where and when it’s needed most.
To learn more about MindCare’s telepsychiatry services, contact Jennifer Wood.