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Three Big Ways Virtual Reality Could Transform Mental Healthcare

When you think of virtual reality, what comes to mind?

Consumers may imagine interactive video games, or mind-bending movies like The Matrix. But healthcare professionals have been watching virtual reality (VR) move far beyond entertainment. In fact, the global healthcare VR market was $885.7 million in 2020, and is projected to grow to $11.7 billion in 2028.

What does that mean for behavioral health?

Here are three big ways that VR could help providers and clients.

1. Effective Trauma Treatment

Although the technology has advanced rapidly in the last decade, the use of VR for mental health is older than you may realize. Since the 1990s, the U.S. Veterans Affairs has been studying the use of VR to help treat combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). VR allows veterans to revisit disturbing memories under controlled conditions, with a therapist’s guidance.

VR serves as a type of prolonged exposure therapy. Research indicates that VR treatment could help with schizophrenia, dementia, PTSD, anxiety disorders, paranoia, delusions, and some phobias. It can be helpful in individuals who have not gotten satisfactory results with standard treatments, such as talk therapy or medications.

2. Substance Misuse Prevention

Many patients who experience severe pain, whether acute or chronic, only experience relief with strong opioid medications. However, the use of opioid painkillers carries the risk of misuse and dependence, creating additional problems for patients.

Researchers have been finding that VR could help with pain management instead. VR programs can help create environments that reduce anxiety before a procedure, or even provide a soothing distraction during a procedure. The Los Angeles-based company AppliedVR has developed an opioid-sparing treatment for chronic pain that incorporates elements of cognitive behavioral therapy.

3. Advancing Telehealth

After getting a big push forward during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth is not going anywhere. VR promises to keep the momentum going with new opportunities for remote mental healthcare.

Writing for the World Economic Forum, Poppy Brown of the University of Oxford notes that many types of VR-based therapy can be automated, allowing clients to receive guidance from a virtual coach. This removes the need for a human therapist to be physically present for every session. This can allow more people to access treatment, lower therapy cost, and reduce burdens for clinicians.

VR carries enormous potential for many behavioral health conditions. While the technology is still improving (physical issues like motion sickness can still be an issue), it can help create a controlled environment for clients receiving mental health treatment. Because of its relative novelty, and because not all VR software or programs have been thoroughly studied, both clinicians and consumers should use caution and good judgment when choosing to use VR in healthcare.

Staying on the cutting edge of behavioral healthcare is essential for keeping your practice valuable and effective. While we’re not in the VR business yet, BestNotes is committed to developing software that helps your practice function more efficiently, reducing the administrative burden for clinicians so they have more time to do what they do best.

Get in touch with us today to take the next step in a more profitable and less frustrating workflow!

date:  Sep 27, 2021
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How Behavioral Health Practices Can Prepare for Increased Demand

Demand for behavioral health services has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides fears of the virus itself, job losses and financial difficulties are increasing anxiety while social isolation from quarantine and stay-at-home orders are leading to a rise in depression symptoms. These difficulties are also leading to an increase in suicidal behaviors and substance misuse.

Additionally, behavioral health demand was already on the rise before COVID-19. PwC reported in February 2020 that a Health Care Cost Institute report on U.S. healthcare spending trends found that spending on psychiatry grew 43 percent between 2014 and 2018. Use of psychiatric services rose 32 percent between 2014 and 2018.

If you are an independent behavioral health provider, how can you prepare for and respond to this increased demand for your services? Here are a few things to consider.

Take a closer look at your practice’s infrastructure.

Are you practically able to add more clients to your practice? Not only should you consider your own limits of time and energy, but you also have the practice itself to consider. Make sure your practice’s infrastructure, such as your waiting room, office space, and any administrative staff, can handle more clients.

Will additional clients create more expenses or administrative burdens? Are your current solutions, such as billing, scheduling, and electronic health record (EHR) software, enough to help you manage these new clients? Make sure you understand how an increased client load will affect your practice.

Partner with other organizations.

For one reason or another, you may not have the availability to serve additional clients in your own practice. However, you may still be able to make a difference and help mitigate behavioral health demand through partnerships with other organizations in your community.

Reach out to other providers in both physical and behavioral health, as well as local health and social services agencies and community groups. Connecting with other professionals and related organizations can help you raise awareness of behavioral health issues, refer individuals in need to appropriate providers, and build your own professional network and knowledge.

If you don’t use telehealth, now is the time to start.

If you have not already added telehealth capabilities to your behavioral health practice, it is not too late. In fact, teletherapy use may be even higher now than in the early stages of the pandemic. Remote behavioral health options could allow you to see more clients in less time, whether you are conducting initial assessments or talk therapy appointments.

Although requirements have relaxed during COVID-19, it is still important to follow best telehealth practices. Make sure you take the appropriate steps to make sure you get reimbursed for telehealth, as well.

Consider adding a partner to your practice.

When you are the only behavioral health provider at your independent practice, there are greater limits to the services you provide and the number of clients you have. Hiring another therapist at your practice, or even bringing on a business partner, is one way to expand your capacity.

When you’re stressed and overworked, the right clinical tools are critical for helping you and your staff continue to serve clients and stay on top of your workload. BestNotes EHR solutions offer easy implementation, reduced clicks, and thorough technical support, as well as telehealth capabilities. Our software was created with clinicians in mind, helping you do what you do best. Contact us to learn more.

date:  Nov 24, 2020
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Does the Recent Growth in Telehealth Have Staying Power?

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.

date:  Oct 16, 2020
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Telehealth News Roundup: June 2020

States and providers moved quickly to expand access to telehealth during the coronavirus pandemic. While the technology was already growing in popularity, its use in response to COVID-19 has increased the speed of its adoption. Here are some of the latest headlines centered around U.S. telehealth use.

Telehealth Expansion Now Permanent in Idaho

Under an executive order signed by Governor Brad Little, more than 150 emergency rules enacted in Idaho to address the coronavirus pandemic have become permanent. Many of these rules, which have been enacted since March, include expansion of telehealth platforms. This change will help expand access to care and may improve patient outcomes in the state.

Some of these now-permanent rules include allowing the use of applications like Zoom and Facetime for telehealth services. Another rule now allows out-of-state providers with valid licenses to treat Idaho residents via telehealth.

VA Expands Patient Care Via Telehealth

So far this year, VA has delivered more than 9 million telehealth appointments, including 1.1 million remote mental health appointments. Like many other health providers, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) canceled and postponed many on-site appointments while expanding its use of telehealth in response to COVID-19. VA plans to continue using telehealth as its locations begin to shift back to offering in-person appointments.

To support infrastructure improvements, including telehealth expansion, the VA Office of Information and Technology received nearly $2 billion in supplemental funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The Veterans Health Administration also received $17.2 billion for medical support.

Best Practices for Long-Term Telehealth Use

Because many clinicians implemented telehealth services as quickly as possible, they may not be fully prepared for its long-term use. An article Medical Economics offers a list of best practices to encourage a telehealth program’s success.

  • Make sure the telehealth services integrate into the rest of the practice’s workflow
  • Communicate with clients before and after the telehealth appointment
  • Instead of troubleshooting patient’s technical difficulties, refer them to separate customer support services
  • Provide proof of all telehealth visits with accurate, detailed reporting and documentation

Telehealth Could Help Control Spending

Behavioral healthcare, driven partly by recent unemployment and social isolation, is expected to contribute to increased healthcare spending in 2021. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts reported that its mental health services accounted for almost 50 percent of its increase in telehealth claims.

However, PwC’s 2021 medical cost trend report suggests that broader use of telehealth could help balance some of that increased spending. Payers may need to alter their benefit designs to incentivize mental telehealth use and work on finding the right reimbursement rate for telehealth. Many employers recognize that mental healthcare spending now could help avoid potentially larger medical bills from deferred mental health treatment, especially for members with chronic conditions.

Looking to implement telehealth at your behavioral health practice? Make sure your EHR software is compatible. BestNotes EHR solutions are specifically for use in behavioral health organizations, with support for many low-cost telehealth options. Contact us today to learn more, or schedule a free demo.

date:  Jul 06, 2020
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