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Overcoming Barriers to Telepsychiatry

Remote mental consultation at psychologist

Telepsychiatry, along with other forms of telemedicine, is a rapidly expanding field offering patients around the country unprecedented access to mental health professionals and specialists. There are certain barriers to telepsychiatry that leading providers such as Orbit Health are working to overcome to facilitate a more ubiquitous use of this convenient, effective, and economical alternative to in-person mental health care. Below, we address a few of the barriers to telepsychiatry and how Orbit Health along with others in the industry are handling these issues.

Regulatory Barriers

One of the biggest challenges to the efficient use of telepsychiatry is regulatory blocking. Medical licensing differs by state. Telepsychiatry offers the ability to transmit dedicated specialists from anywhere in the country to any location with sufficient internet access. However, clinicians can only provide assessment and care where they are licensed to do so. Some states require psychiatrists to obtain a completely new medical license in order to practice in the state, even if they are licensed and experienced elsewhere. Thankfully, a growing number of states are joining an agreement known as the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. The Compact is designed to permit out-of-state medical professionals to obtain fast-track licenses within each member-state. Through effective use of the Compact, psychiatrists licensed in one state can quickly and cheaply obtain a license to practice in another state and start treating patients wherever they may be, without jumping through a number of regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles.

Patient Reservations

Some healthcare providers are reluctant to utilize telepsychiatry for fear of rejection by patients. They may feel that patients will see the process as less personal or less effective. Certainly, patient willingness to engage in telepsychiatry is an important factor in evaluating whether it will be utilized, whether it will be effective, and whether patients will be satisfied. However, studies have shown that patients are much more adaptable than providers may initially believe. Especially when alternative care is unavailable or difficult and expensive to obtain, patients who choose to undergo telepsychiatry report high levels of satisfaction and efficacy. Patients report increasing comfort and satisfaction with telepsychiatry once they use it. Truly, once patients try it, they like it.

Reimbursement

Healthcare services depend in large part on the willingness of federal, state and private insurers to reimburse patients for care. Thankfully, Medicare has been reimbursing providers for telemedicine since 1999. Many private insurers now fully reimburse all telemedicine services as well, treating them as they would any other medical care. States were more gradual in covering telemedicine in their Medicaid programs, but at this point, all 50 states and the District of Columbia reimburse live video telemedicine services as part of their Medicaid programs. Some states still include restrictions on the type of service or the “originating location” for services that merit reimbursement, but these restrictions are gradually being relaxed. A growing number of states (well over half) even reimburse telehealth services brought to patient homes.

If you are a healthcare provider, detention center, or litigator who would benefit from a variety of practiced, qualified, and reasonable psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today. More states are abolishing the home exception in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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