Across the United States, many communities have limited access to quality behavioral healthcare, even as demand rises. The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) found that demand for addiction counselors alone may increase anywhere between 21 to 38 percent by 2030, creating a shortage of these professionals.
As mental health awareness grows and the opioid addiction crisis continues, providers and payers are seeking ways to help close care gaps. Telepsychiatry could help many patients gain access to behavioral health resources.
Rural behavioral health needs
While most Americans experience a mental health need at some point, rural communities often lack sufficient mental healthcare.
Sixty-five percent of non-metropolitan U.S. counties do not have a psychiatrist, and 47 percent do not have a psychologist, researchers report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The same study found that the average supply of psychologists in non-metropolitan counties was less than half the supply of metropolitan counties.
Experts point out that a lack of access to mental and behavioral healthcare could worsen public health issues like drug addiction and suicide. The shortage of providers often means that people avoid getting treatment for behavioral or mental healthcare until it is an emergency or crisis situation. This can drive up healthcare costs and reduce quality of life.
What new research shows
Telepsychiatry could be a vital resource for individuals in rural and other underserved areas. Researchers with Genoa Healthcare and Relias found that patients receive more timely care and had more regular psychiatric appointments when telepsychiatry was combined with in-person visits.
The study included 242 Medicaid patients in rural Missouri who received care for severe mental illness. Patients with telepsychiatry access were seen 7 days sooner and were 34 percent more likely to have regular follow-up visits compared to patients who only received in-person care. These findings appear in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Rural Mental Health.
What does other research show?
New research data support previous findings that behavioral telehealth can help close care gaps. Several communities are now taking advantage of these benefits.
To help address shortages of mental healthcare in the state, the University of North Dakota’s medical school now trains psychiatry residents in treating rural patients remotely.
The Board of McLean County, Illinois, voted in 2018 to approve an agreement with a telepsychiatry company to provide treatment for behavioral health referrals. This may help close treatment gaps after the county’s Center for Human Services stopped accepting new clients for psychiatric treatment.
Dr. Yilmaz Yildirim of East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, conducted a 32-month study that compared the number of adult and child evaluations and follow-ups between face-to-face and telepsychiatry services. Among patients in rural counties in eastern North Carolina, there was no significant differences between those who made in-person or remote visits. Both patients and clinicians were satisfied with remote visits.
Pair telepsychiatry with EHR
Getting started with remote behavioral health or addiction treatment? Make sure you use your telehealth solution with a tailored behavioral health EHR. BestNotes EHR was developed specifically to help behavioral health and addiction treatment practices stay streamlined and cost-effective.
Contact us today to learn more about how BestNotes EHR can help you improve care, track patient outcomes, and increase practice revenue.