Thousands of Americans needlessly suffer in isolation with mental health challenges. Telemedicine promises life-changing solutions for veterans with PTSD, elderly patients battling depression, and those with cognitive disabilities living alone. Virtual medical encounters aren't the same as they were a couple of decades ago. Today, psychiatrists and other doctors utilize innovative technologies to bring relief and healing via private therapy sessions using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
Why You Should Consider Adding Telemedicine Therapy Options in 2017
Of the estimated 60 million Americans who experience a mental health event every year, some 40% either don't seek care or fail to complete the recommended treatment plan. Stigma, along with other barriers including financial and mobility hardships,contributes to non-compliance that could improve daily life for patients with mental illness. Virtual therapy sessions and web-based medical encounters eliminate the stigma associated with going to a mental health clinic for services.
Limited financial resources also prevent people from seeking care. However, things are changing. The American Telemedicine Association reports 31 states – and the District of Columbia – now require private insurance payers consider virtual therapy sessions under the same guidelines as face-to-face encounters. Expanded insurance coverage means more patients have access to care, and providers have an opportunity to add additional revenue streams via modern technology. Psychiatrists and mental health professionals are monitoring juvenile ADHD patients in Texas under the Medicare program with virtual family and individual sessions as part of their maintenance medication protocol.
Expanded digital health services in 2017 will bring investors, researchers, medical professionals, patient advocates, pharmacy decision makers and innovative engineers into the digital health industry together to streamline operations with modern EHR systems and enhance patient care via telemedicine channels. In 2017 watch for these exciting changes:
- Approval for virtual monitoring under TRICARE, which covers 9.4 million active and veteran military personnel and dependents
- Project ECHO may finally incorporate reimbursable services, expanding access through structural modifications that consider medical homes are billable entities in the future
- Changes in Medicare coding will allow reimbursements for online medical encounters based on updated codes, which could positively or negatively impact reimbursement rates
- State licensure compacts will continue to expand beyond the current 18 states for physician services, 10 for enhanced nursing, 4 for physical therapy and 1 for psychological services
There is a lot of change potential for EHR systems and telemedicine health services delivery in the coming year. At UPMC, on average, $86.64 is saved every time a patient receives primary care or urgent care online versus going to an ER or urgent care clinic. We can expect online care to save money, expand access to patient services an improve revenue streams for all doctors, and specifically mental health professionals this year. Are you ready to add virtual services?