4 ways a telehealth platform can help you navigate uncertainty and improve outcomes
October 26, 2022
4 ways a telehealth platform can help you navigate uncertainty and improve outcomes
What’s next for telehealth is one of the most urgent questions for healthcare providers as the pandemic ends. Telehealth use for medical and behavioral health care soared during the pandemic, helping to ensure that patients continued to receive the care they needed in a timely fashion.
But telehealth adoption during this public health emergency (PHE) was only made possible by the temporary waiving of state and federal statutes and policies set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), dictating:
Which telehealth services will be covered, such as group psychotherapy and psychological and neuropsychological assessments
What locations can be used to deliver and receive services, such as whether the patient is in a designated geographic area eligible for telehealth services
Which providers can deliver telehealth services
Which modalities will be covered
Providers, payers, and policy makers are all sifting through data from the last several years to answer questions about whether the temporary changes made to allow expanded use of telehealth in medical and behavioral health care should be extended or made permanent. How will patient demand change as in-person options are made available again? Which telehealth interventions provide positive health benefits for patients? Which HIPAA compliant telehealth platforms can be used? How should reimbursement for telehealth work?
For forward-thinking organizations, there is no time to wait. These organizations can find opportunities to optimize a telehealth approach, both by improving patient care outcomes and by increasing business resilience, even in this time of uncertainty. Here are several considerations for how telehealth could help you evolve and grow your business.
Tailor telehealth services to the patients that want them
Several recent studies have provided an intriguing look behind the impressive top-line growth numbers for telehealth. Although telehealth use remains higher in behavioral health care than in other medical fields, overall use is tapering off. What these studies reveal, however, is well-defined groups of patients who continue to opt for and even increase their use of telehealth. These so-called super-user segments include:
Women aged 21-40 (Trilliant)
Adults with a household income of $100,000 or more (McKinsey)
Adults with with individual or employer-sponsored group insurance coverage (McKinsey)
These emerging telehealth usage patterns paint a more nuanced picture of how telehealth may evolve post-pandemic, from a one-size-fits-all approach to a targeted, personalized service. Data and analytics can aid organizations in shaping delivery models and business strategies, as well as informing approaches to attract new or wider audiences with targeted messaging..
Tailoring telehealth services to the needs of these super-users can create new revenue-generating opportunities. Behavioral health care providers should leverage the analytics from their telehealth platform to learn more about their patients, including when, where, and how they prefer to access telehealth services. The goal is to identify segments that show similar patterns of preference and use of services. In addition to the super-user groups identified in the research, you may uncover segments that are unique to your area or patient population. Armed with these insights, you can optimize your telehealth strategy, perhaps refining your digital front door or promoting asynchronous digital services to specific patient segments.
Empower practitioners with choices, too
Just as telehealth may not appeal to every patient, the same is true for practitioners. In the Mckinsey study mentioned above, only 35% of physicians surveyed indicated that telehealth is convenient for them, although they also acknowledge that it is convenient for their patients. And 46% of physicians surveyed indicated that they would prefer to offer just a few hours of virtual care each day, and almost none would want to offer it full time. The reasons are many, including siloed healthcare systems that create clunky, inefficient provider experiences, provider concerns about reimbursement levels, video conferencing fatigue, and more.
With an ongoing shortage of qualified behavioral health providers, and mounting concerns about front-line provider burnout, behavioral health care organizations should consider how telehealth can help meet the needs of practitioners as well as patients. By assessing utilization analytics, organizations can optimize provider schedules to match their preferences for virtual or in-person care. They could also enable providers to decide when and how much virtual care to offer, including use of digital services that reduce the workload of providers, such as self-service online scheduling for appointments and asynchronous communications and content access outside of scheduled sessions.
Find telehealth opportunities in your competitive landscape
There’s no doubt that we have entered a period of massive disruption in behavioral health care business models. Mental health continues to be the most well-funded clinical indication in digital health funding, with a total of t$1.7 billion through the first nine months of 2022. (RockHealth) Stakeholders clearly continue to see opportunity for digital-driven innovation and growth in this space.
Behavioral health care organizations can look for inspiration in the successes of the companies that are demonstrating improved outcomes for patients and returns for investors. Some companies, for example, are combining multiple services and modalities into a subscription-based offering for patients with a well-defined mental health issue such as anxiety or substance abuse disorders. Many app-based providers in the space offer subscription-based models for their digital platforms. Other organizations bundle services like self-guided care, community support, and individual virtual therapy into a single digital-fronted platform with a subscription-based model. A telehealth platform can be the foundation of a re-imagined behavioral health care program that creates new revenue opportunities and elevates the patient experience.
Implement a flexible, scalable telehealth operations platform
During the PHE, the requirement for using HIPAA-compliant technology in delivering telehealth services was waived, and many organizations quickly implemented ad hoc solutions to deliver virtual care, using video conferencing tools like Zoom. While these technologies have enabled provider organizations to continue providing care throughout the pandemic, they often fail to adequately address security and privacy concerns, putting both the provider organization and the patient at risk. As point solutions, the limited functionality they offer creates missed opportunities, including improved patient experience, increased efficiencies, reduced costs, and easier ways to expand and scale programs.
To ensure the agility needed to respond quickly to ongoing changes in telehealth statutes and policies that can impact how providers implement telehealth, behavioral health care organizations should continue to evolve beyond point solutions. A robust, HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform like OnCall Health can offer a full range of secure, integrated telehealth services to help organizations connect the virtual treatment experience from admissions to ongoing care. With features like self-service booking, automated admissions and onboarding, program delivery tools that make it easy to provide care and aftercare, and analytics that can help optimize programs end to end, organizations can truly make the most of their technology investments to improve patient experience and outcomes and accelerate business growth.
From uncertainty to resilience: leverage a telehealth platform to grow and thrive
While telehealth for behavioral health care has come a long way in a very short time, it is still relatively new. Telehealth best practices will continue to evolve as providers learn how they can best meet the needs of their patients, practitioners, and revenue models. Telehealth adoption will continue to be influenced by evolving public policy, public and private-sector investments, and payer policies. Regardless of how this complex telehealth landscape changes, a scalable and HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform like OnCall can help behavioral health care organizations adapt quickly to changes in telehealth use to deliver timely, accessible, and affordable care with better clinical outcomes for patients and improved economics for the business.