Even though online medical care isn't soaring at the same rate as it did during the early part of the pandemic, the demand for virtual health care is high and continues to grow. Whether you call it teletherapy, telepsychiatry, telemedicine, virtual care, or e-health, most experts consider telehealth to be a valuable and cost-effective alternative to in-person health care.
Telehealth applications (telehealth apps, for short) are one way to help patients, but do they substitute for in-person behavioral health care? Can behavioral health professionals deliver the same quality of care with virtual visits as they do with in-person appointments?
Well, the answers might surprise you. Let's look at the different aspects of telehealth apps and how a telehealth app designed for behavioral health might support a clinician's ability to deliver safe, cost-effective, efficient, patient-centered, and timely care.
Telehealth Apps and Safety
When you think of safety in health care and specifically behavioral health, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s a safe environment, free of hazards, in which to work and treat patients. Perhaps you think about the safety measures around prescribing or administering medications. These are all valid considerations. In health care, including behavioral health, the implications of patient safety are vast. But what about telehealth safety?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deems telehealth "a safe and secure way of connecting with your health care provider online." Still, issues like privacy, confidentiality, and security must be taken into account when dealing with access to sensitive health records and organizational data.
Many commercially available telemedicine and health apps contain privacy safeguards such as end-to-end encryption. However, that doesn't mean they are HIPAA-compliant. To meet privacy guidelines and ensure your patients are safe and secure during video appointments, it's essential to partner with a technology vendor that is familiar with behavioral health and adheres to all HIPAA guidelines and rules.
Telehealth Apps and Cost
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that telehealth is an effective way for doctors and patients to communicate. It also finds that telehealth apps improve access to care in a cost-effective and reliable manner.
While this is good news, you may find some server-based technologies require organizations to purchase and maintain expensive hardware, which is a potential barrier to adoption. Server-based systems may be too time-consuming and complicated for untrained staff, thus requiring more investment into infrastructure and IT training.
One way to run a cost-effective telehealth program without increasing expenses or sacrificing quality is to partner with a technology vendor that offers low overhead solutions. ContinuumCloud's EHR features a cloud-based telehealth app that connects over a wireless internet connection without any costly or clunky hardware required. Patients can easily (and safely) connect on their computers or other mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, from wherever they are.
Telehealth Apps and Efficiency
In health care, efficiency compares outputs like goals and outcomes with inputs like time, labor, and money. An efficient, lean system is one that will use the fewest resources possible while achieving the desired outcome. In other words, efficiency is "bang for your buck."
ContinuumCloud's EHR software can improve office productivity by allowing you to streamline workflows and automate repetitive tasks. Further, because our telehealth app is an extension of our comprehensive EHR solution, you'll have all of your documentation, therapy notes, order sets, patient records, prescribing tools, and reporting options in one place. This will save your team time, effort, and economy of movement.
Telehealth Services and Timeliness
When a need for medical or mental care arises, timeliness refers to how quickly the system can provide care. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), timely delivery of appropriate care can help reduce negative outcomes in the treatment of serious mental illness and substance use disorders.
The stigma surrounding behavioral health often negatively impacts a patient's willingness and ability to seek behavioral health care services in a timely manner or if they seek care at all. By knocking down some of the obstacles to care, telehealth apps may help improve outcomes by widening mental health care, access, and delivery.
The shortage of health care professionals within the behavioral health industry and in health care at large is a major factor contributing to delays in care. Coupled with the growing demand for services, experts worry about a compounding effect. The most immediate solution may lie in telehealth.
ContinuumCloud's suite of mental health software includes a comprehensive EHR solution, a unified HCM and payroll platform, and the CaredFor app, which is a patient engagement platform that can extend the continuum of care as well as reduce barriers like social stigma.
ContinuumCloud offers multiple ways for patients and clinicians to communicate, including secure direct messaging, chat, and email. The telehealth app, specifically, offers the ability to improve access to care by giving providers much-needed flexibility. By leveraging virtual care, behavioral health care clinics can follow up with patients outside of office hours and use automated patient appointment reminders. As a result, organizations may experience improved revenue with fewer no-shows and cancellations.
Telehealth Apps and Flexible, Patient-Centered Care
In the digital era, delivering patient-centered care, whether you're in the field, in the office, or at the bedside, requires interoperable systems. This is one of the principles behind Medicare's Meaningful Use program.
But integrated software isn't enough. It’s vital to ensure solutions that offer mobile capability. A telehealth solution should offer tools that not only enable the safe and secure exchange of health information but also flexible access for clinicians using the systems and the patients relying on them.
When a patient is in crisis, you may need to connect in real time. That may mean doing a video chat while you're away from the office. No matter where you are, you're still obligated to provide the same high-quality care. Having an integrated telehealth platform in this situation can make all the difference.
What’s more, having access to a complete and accurate behavioral health record and medical history for patients is of the utmost importance. Additionally, you may need to verify health insurance, consult with their primary care physician, have the ability to schedule follow-up appointments, check the status of refills, and confer with pharmacists or other health professionals.
Patients and staff can safely access ContinuumCloud's interoperable (Meaningful Use certified) EHR platform from anywhere and on any device, regardless of the operating system. Clinicians can encourage patients to sign into the patient portal and contribute to their personal health records (separate from their electronic medical records). Research shows that patient-generated health data helps clinicians deliver patient-centered care, and it may add needed insight as well.
Choose a Telehealth App That Helps You Deliver High-Quality Care
During the pandemic, telehealth grew dramatically. While it has since stabilized, it continues to grow at a rate much higher than in the pre-pandemic era. This is especially true in the field of behavioral health and human services where there is a shortage of qualified health care professionals.
Telehealth may not be the perfect substitute for in-person patient care, but a telehealth app with connected EHR functionality, flexibility, and tools can help providers supplement in-person care and drive quality in an organization.
If you’re interested in extending the reach of your organization by offering quality telehealth solutions, you need a technology partner who understands how behavioral health is delivered — and in what settings. Learn about more ways that ContinuumCloud can help you reach your goals and connect with us today.