Virtual care was already growing in popularity before the COVID-19 pandemic drove even more providers online to reduce the need for in-person visits and onsite staff. As normal services resume, however, there is uncertainty whether the boom in telehealth and remote work will last, or will face a decline after the end of the public health emergency.
Behavioral Health Provider Poll
A new poll of more than 1,000 behavioral health providers conducted in partnership with the National Council for Behavioral Health shows that respondents quickly pivoted to move operations online.
The vast majority of providers, as much as 80 percent, reported that they now deliver care virtually more than half of the time. Seventy percent of them expect that, in the future, at least 40 percent of care will continue to be virtual.
With that move to virtual care, however, comes a decline in revenue. Although telehealth can reduce no-shows and remote work can increase productivity, 64 percent of behavioral health providers say that they have experienced revenue losses during the pandemic.
Closing Revenue Gaps
Many health organizations, from small, private practices to major hospital systems, report that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, from delayed procedures to stay-at-home orders, has had a negative financial impact. A new report from Kaufman Hall shows that operating margins are down, even with federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Fortunately, telehealth may prove to be a revenue stop-gap for some practices. According to Fitch Ratings, remote care services could financially benefit practices and distributors, especially for those providers who prescribe medications or make referrals.
However, practices can only benefit financially from telehealth as long as payers continue to reimburse telehealth at current levels. Temporary waivers in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis have allowed behavioral health providers to bill for many telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services. If the waivers are not made permanent once the public health emergency is over, this revenue stop-gap will close.
Persistent Issues in Telehealth Adoption
Virtual care and remote work have brought benefits that could ensure its use for years to come, such as increased access to behavioral health and better work-life balance. However, there are still barriers to the adoption and ongoing use of telehealth.
According to IoT For All, telehealth’s long-term potential could be hindered by several issues:
Many providers are still not equipped for the move to virtual care
Virtual care quality can vary widely among providers
Lack of patient education and awareness of telehealth options
Less support from insurers for telehealth delivery
Reimbursement for telehealth remains uncertain and challenging
Many providers need a new EHR to maintain telehealth options. As behavioral health organizations continue to protect staff and clients while providing vital health services, it is important to adopt an EHR solution that will help meet financial needs while achieving the right balance between onsite and virtual care.
Adopting behavioral telehealth doesn’t have to be complicated. BestNotes EHR solutions were developed specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers to help you stay compliant and profitable. Contact BestNotes today to learn more.