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Wider Scope In Telebehavioral Care

January 29, 2018

It’s not surprising that 91% of the nation’s largest health systems now offer telebehavioral health services or are planning to offer them. Telebehavioral health programs are helping curb the astronomical cost of treating mental health disorders, which now tops $200 billion a year in the U.S.

For telebehavioral programs to be successful, they need to quickly determine which cases are severe and which are mild to moderate. A disturbing study by The Commonwealth Fund found that as many as 80 percent of behavioral health patients present at hospital EDs, where providers often lack the training to effectively diagnose and treat behavioral conditions.

Without telehealth services, a patient must often wait 20 hours to be seen by a specialist – and the hospital suffers an average net loss of more than $2,200 per behavioral health ED visit. But by using the InTouch Health platform, ED doctors can quickly connect with psychiatrists, reducing patients’ ED wait times and dramatically lowering costs. The platform also improves outcomes because specialists can quickly determine whether the patient has a serious condition like schizophrenia or just a case of the holiday blues.

Many health systems are now creating special programs for patients with mild-to-moderate behavioral conditions. For example, at Inception Health in Wisconsin, patients log on weekly to complete a questionnaire and are tested every few weeks. And at OSF Healthcare in Illinois, patients are assigned to virtual coaches.

Behavioral health patients are among the highest utilizers of the healthcare system – and those with both behavioral conditions and chronic physical ailments cost the system 75% more than those with physical problems alone. But those costs are dropping because telehealth helps makes it faster and easier to get appropriate care.