The Benefits of Telebehavioral Health

Discover the Benefits of Implementing a Telebehavioral Health Program

InTouch Health recently expanded their partnership with a non-profit health system that principally serves California, Arizona, and Nevada. The health system started their telehealth program by offering telestroke services to a single hospital, but they soon expanded their telemedicine operations to include 39 healthcare facilities throughout the Southwest U.S., serving both hospitals within and outside of the health system.

However, the health system soon set their sights on telebehavioral health to improve patient access to behavioral healthcare services. To get this innovative program off the ground, InTouch Health worked with the health system to expand their telemedicine infrastructure to include on-demand telebehavioral services. 

Why Telebehavioral Health?

Studies show that behavioral health remains an urgent concern throughout the healthcare industry. Nearly 20% of the U.S. population has a diagnosable behavioral health condition, yet just 66% of these psychiatric needs are currently being met. 

Telebehavioral healthcare helps providers identify and manage their patients’ behavioral health conditions to improve the quality of care. Behavioral health conditions such as depression and anxiety can also worsen or contribute to the prevalence of chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Chronic conditions and behavioral health conditions can create a vicious cycle of pain and depression, with one condition driving the other and vice versa. Undiagnosed behavioral health conditions can increase the cost of care and worsen patient outcomes.

Research indicates that treating the physical health of a patient with underlying behavioral health issues can cost up to three times more than treating the same physical health issues in a patient without a mental health disorder.

Despite these findings, studies show the rate of psychiatric consultations for medical inpatients is less than 4%. The more providers consult with behavioral health professionals, the better they can treat the whole patient, not just their chronic condition. 

The Challenges of Implementing a System-Wide Telebehavioral Health Program

The health system’s main objectives for creating a system-wide telebehavioral health program included lowering the cost of care by reducing the average patient length of stay, reducing the impact of chronic conditions and behavioral health conditions on facility throughput, and improving patient and provider access to behavioral health professionals. 

The new model for care would have to include on-demand telebehavioral health services, which meant providers would need reliable and consistent access to the Internet, quality technology that fades into the environment, and the picture and sound used in telebehavioral consultations would have to mimic in-person care. The system would essentially need to mirror the health system’s existing telestroke program in terms of response time and accessibility.  

To achieve these goals, the health system leveraged InTouch Health’s telemedicine technology. InTouch Health has a long history of serving patients and providers, with technology known for their simplicity and reliability, which increases the chances that providers will utilize these telebehavioral tools. 

To learn more about the results and benefits of telebehavioral healthcare, click here to read the full case study.