COVID-19 affected every behavioral health facility and addictions treatment center, forcing clinicians to rapidly adapt their practice to telehealth delivery to meet their current client needs; while also managing the entry of quite a few more clients due the global pandemic’s negative effect on individuals and their family’s mental health. Balancing the needs of the people and the transition to telehealth, as well as new billing codes for reimbursement, resulted in a somewhat stressful environment for many clinicians and CEO’s whose medical billing remained in-house. An environment that held benefits for growth, but also challenges with adaptation and reimbursement.
The novel coronavirus and the influx of mental health needs during 2020 lowered the insurance regulatory barriers to telehealth coverage, allowing clinicians to increase their reach in care. For those who are technology driven, this advancement was exciting like the opening of a new frontier with more possibilities to help people and increase revenue; however, for those who are not as adept at technology delivered interventions, stress and a surge in challenges accrued.
The Benefits of Behavioral TeleHealth
Research on the feasibility and efficiency of behavioral health and addictions telehealth has been conducted and has been noted to be acceptable and as effective as in-person visits. One meta-analysis focusing on videoconferencing and telecommunications for mental health’s common disorders, such as depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder, and post-traumatic stress revealed positive and consistent efficacy. It has been noted to be equal in diagnostic accuracy to in-person care.
2. Accessible Care
First and foremost, virtual visits have allowed clinicians to reach their clients in the comforts of their own home when office visits are not possible. This has allowed the continuity of mental health care even amidst the pandemic, and has opened avenues for readily accessible care for when either the client or the clinician cannot be in the office. Moreover, clinicians have found clients to be more relaxed and comfortable in the privacy of their own home, at ease with talking to a person on a screen, safe and secure.
Clinicians have been able to conduct individual telehealth therapy sessions as well as group telehealth therapy sessions and have found there to be an overall satisfaction amongst clients as well as fellow clinicians.
The Challenges of Behavioral TeleHealth
1. Technology Proficiency
One of the main challenges of Behavioral TeleHealth is people’s technology skills, both clinician and client. Not everyone is tech savvy. Some clinicians need more guidance in how to manage workflow appointments or how to efficiently implement appointments with constructive interventions that are not in person. Furthermore, some clients do not know how to work with videoconferencing and prefer telecommunication; therefore, patience is needed by both parties and it is best if the clinician asks the client, prior to their first virtual visit, about their technology skills.
2. Proper Licensing
Another challenge, though telehealth allows clinicians to reach more clients in distant locations, they have to be licensed in the state in which their client resides. The State licensing boards note the place of the client is where the practice of medicine takes place. Clinicians know this, however, clients may not and would need to be advised.
3. Patient Privacy
Some clinicians expressed concern about being able to build a therapeutic relationship with their client through telehealth, the privacy issues and cybersecurity, and also identified the inability to identify non-verbal communication through telecommunication as a barrier to treatment.
4. Telehealth Reimbursements
Finally, being reimbursed for telehealth sessions may be a challenge. During COVID-19, insurances opened the barriers to reimbursement to meet the needs of the people; however post-COVID-19, there are more specific rules and regulations to be adhered to, and confirming client’s insurance coverage for telehealth prior to the virtual visits is essential.
If you have become frustrated with claims denials and delays in insurance payments for behavioral health telehealth coverage, consider out-sourcing your medical billing. Our team is proficient in billing for telehealth services, and our goal is to make sure you receive the highest reimbursement for your services provided.