How to Establish a Successful Telepsychiatry Program
Telepsychiatry can be an invaluable addition to any medical practice. If you are looking to improve patient care and satisfaction, increase revenue streams, and generally expand your medical business, telepsychiatry offers an economical, effective, and efficient means to do so. Establishing an effective telepsychiatry practice, however, requires preparation and care. It’s important to have the right training, the right infrastructure, and the right policies to ensure that your telepsychiatry practice avoids technical and administrative hiccups, protects patient data, and adheres to all appropriate regulations and licensure requirements. The telepsychiatry team at Orbit Health offers consulting services to help set up your telepsychiatry practice in an efficient, effective, and compliant manner. In service of those goals, we offer a few tips below for establishing a telepsychiatry program in your healthcare practice.
Identify Areas Where Telepsychiatry Can Help
Telepsychiatry offers many benefits for medical offices, including increased access to psychiatric care specialists, reduced administrative costs, and more control over the timing of patient appointments. When setting up your telepsychiatry practice, identify any organizational pain points that telepsychiatry may be able to address so that you can track progress and improvement as you implement your telemedicine program. Consider issues such as:
- Are there long waits for patients in need of psychiatric consults, especially in your emergency department?
- Is your practice hurting for staff and clinicians to cover night and weekend shifts for your psychiatric practice?
- Are you facing escalating costs and reduced reimbursement for psychiatric care?
- Are there any regulatory concerns with your current psychiatry practice?
- Do you lack access to specialists in certain areas of psychiatric care?
Knowing what you want out of your telepsychiatry program will help you prioritize your goals.
Identify Telemedicine Priorities and Goals
In addition to identifying problem areas, identify other organizational goals that you hope to achieve through a telepsychiatry program. What is your vision for the next few years? How do you plan to evaluate your progress? Do you have an established telehealth practice already, and if so, how can it be improved? How can you integrate telepsychiatry into your existing telehealth practice? Who in your organization is responsible for tracking your telehealth practice and the telemedicine industry at large?
Understand Regulatory and Licensing Requirements
State medical boards around the country are rapidly accepting telemedicine as a complementary practice to traditional in-person visits. Administrative obstacles and burdensome licensure requirements are being rolled back or eliminated in many states, while many states are simultaneously entering into a multi-state agreement to expand the practice of telepsychiatry across state lines.
That being said, it’s important to understand the specific laws, regulations, and licensing rules in your home state. Some states still require clinicians to conduct at least one in-person visit before continuing with telepsychiatry. Others simply require practitioners to acquire an additional license to practice telemedicine, with very limited administrative hurdles. Many states now offer a fast-track for practitioners from out-of-state to acquire a provisional license to practice telepsychiatry with patients inside the state without going through the traditional, full licensure process. Make sure your telepsychiatry administrators and practitioners are all fully apprised of the current rules about telepsychiatry in your state. At least one member of your team should be tasked with keeping up-to-date with any changes to state law or medical board licensing rules to ensure your practice is as efficient and current as possible.
Design Appropriate Workflows
Key to any new medical program is appropriate workflow design. You will want to establish appropriate staff members to take ownership of the telepsychiatry program and ensure that they receive the appropriate training. It’s important to properly integrate telepsychiatry into your existing organizational structure. Consider issues such as:
- Where will you host telepsychiatry sessions?
- Who will manage your telepsychiatry practice?
- How will scheduling work?
- Who will be responsible for transmitting (and protecting) patient data?
- Who will be responsible for billing and coding for telepsychiatry sessions?
- Will telepsychiatry be limited to business hours, or will you open up the opportunity for night and weekend sessions for patients in need?
The telepsychiatry team at Orbit Health offers an intensive program that will help you set up a team and establish workflows designed to efficiently and effectively integrate a new telepsychiatry program into your medical business. We ensure that your staff has the training and infrastructure necessary to establish, maintain, and expand a healthy, compliant, and effective telepsychiatry program.
If you are a healthcare provider who would benefit from a variety of experienced, educated psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.