By Jeanine Miles, LPC

Original article posted on NAMI

Unprecedented need exists for child and adolescent mental health services in today’s communities, however, parents have limited options at their disposal. Shortages of child psychologists and psychiatrists are leaving our most vulnerable populations without care. Currently, all U.S. states are facing high or severe shortages, with many communities lacking even one qualified child and adolescent psychiatrist.

We need an effective solution, and it might be telebehavioral health. This convenient, accessible model of care has been gaining traction: Studies consistently reveal high satisfaction rates for children, adolescents and parents, often reaching above 90%. In fact, a 2013 studydetermined that telebehavioral health might be better than in-person care for children and adolescents because this age group often expresses an unwillingness or reluctance to participate in traditional therapy sessions.

Telebehavioral health might be a natural solution for improving access to care, but that’s just one benefit. As a counselor who offers telesessions, I’ve seen many more. Consider the following:

Comfortable Surroundings

Clinical office settings often intimidate children and adolescents. I find that younger populations are more willing to open up when they are in their own environment surrounded by familiar possessions or in reach of pets who may offer comfort. With telebehavioral health, I also get clues and information from a home environment I never see in an office setting.

For example, one child was well-behaved during our traditional office appointments. Yet her mother described a very different child with erratic behaviors while at home. Through our telebehavioral health sessions, I could see family interactions that confirmed the mother’s assessment. I was then able to teach the young girl and her family healthy coping techniques right there “at home.”

Familiar Modes Of Communication

Younger generations have grown up with technology. In fact, a 2015 study shows 67% of teens own a smartphone and spend more than four hours daily engaged with it. Videoconferencing, therefore, is a natural fit for today’s youth. Many teens prefer telesessions compared to traditional office sessions because it’s familiar and helps build trust. Simply put: Today’s youth are more comfortable communicating through a screen.

Easier Scheduling

One of the greatest barriers to engaging younger populations in mental health treatment is stigma. Many adolescents fear their peers will find out they go to therapy and ask questions. Professional shortages and scheduling challenges often causes students to miss school to attend therapy sessions. When a student leaves school early or checks in late, their peers may ask questions or make them feel uncomfortable.

With telebehavioral health, scheduling becomes much easier, as sessions can take place outside of traditional office hours. Patients do not have to miss school, nor do they run the risk of running into someone they know in a waiting room.

When choosing a telebehavioral health care organization or provider for your child, it’s important to do research before pursuing treatment. Things to consider are whether or not they are HIPAA-compliant, if they offer technical or care navigation support, whether they have providers licensed in your state, and if you can pay with your insurance plan. A good place to start is a reference guide, such as the one created by Open Minds that lists reputable telebehavioral health organizations.

Telebehavioral health care is changing the way communities and families approach mental health services. At a time when the need for mental health care is soaring, this option holds great promise for addressing gaps in care and providing parents with a critical resource for addressing their child’s health and well-being.

 

Jeanine Miles, LPC, Cognitive Behavioral Therapist with Inpathy and the Director of Business Development and Training at the Center for Family Guidance. Jeanine is a New Jersey Licensed Professional Counselor and has over 20 years of administrative and management experience in healthcare and behavioral healthcare. She is responsible for the development and implementation of new programs including overseeing all start-up projects, social skills training and school based programs. Jeanine has provided therapy and other telebehavioral health services through Inpathy since the program was launched and has long been an advocate for telebehavioral health.

By Rajiv Leventhal

With a dwindling supply of psychiatrists nationwide, telepsychiatry services are starting to become more mainstream

It was nearly 20 years ago when a clinician (non-psychiatrist) brought up the notion of telepsychiatry to James Varrell, M.D., a licensed psychiatrist himself who at the time didn’t know much about the telemedicine subsector. “This was 1999 and it was like voodoo to me,” Varrell says, adding that after that conversation he needed to do his due diligence and research.

What came from that conversation, and ensuing exploration into telepsychiatry, was a realization that there was more support for it than Varrell initially assumed. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put out a significant paper in 1995 in support of telepsychiatry, and it was around that time when research began on its ability to facilitate access to care, overcome geographical obstacles and how it compared to in-person care. “All of the go-to organizations in the [industry] have always been supportive of it. Clinicians individually have been skeptical since they’ve never done it. But now, many [places] are incorporating into their residency programs,” Varrell says.

Indeed, folks might not be as familiar with telepsychiatry as they are with other forms of telemedicine, since behavioral health often flies under the radar compared to its physical health brethren. But according to the APA, by the 2000s, the field began to see it as effective, but slightly different, than in-person care, and research in outcome studies provided a platform for practice guidelines, via the American Telemedicine Association.

Varrell says that today’s mental health landscape is characterized by an increased need for services coupled with a dwindling supply of psychiatrists. Indeed, more than 55 percent of U.S. counties are currently without any psychiatrists, and the mental health landscape is facing shortages in more than 4,600 areas, according to Kaiser. Varrell, who has been practicing telepsychiatry for 18 years ever since it was brought up to him back in 1999, now works at telepsychiatry service provider organization InSight, a Marlton, N.J.-based company that he founded in 2008 and where he currently oversees a team of more than 200 psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners—many of whom work full-time doing telepsychiatry.

Speaking to the growth in the sector, Varrell says that his company began with telepsychiatry mostly in ERs where patients in crisis environments were prioritized. But, he notes, “The place more than anywhere where it started to develop was in rural environments, where access to basic psychiatry care would be otherwise inaccessible. That’s still growing,” he says. “Now, the new wave is that we are starting to do integrated care in medical offices, and that was a big push with Obamacare. We think the next trend is in-home services for consumers, which is telepsychiatry direct-to-patients in their homes or wherever they are [in a private space].”

The reason InSight started to provide telepsychiatry services was because it was located in a rural environment, but Varrell says beyond that, there have been valuable lessons learned since the organization’s inception: primarily that telepsychiatry works well for most people in most areas. “For people in crises, you don’t want to do an in-home visitation if they are psychotic or suicidal. You want them in more supported environments like outpatient mental centers or ERs if it’s very acute,” explains Varrell. “Over the years, we have learned that we can accommodate all types of people.”

Among these are: translations [for people who speak] different languages; the geriatric population, for which a great sound system is needed for older folks who have hearing issues; and also for those with cognitive and intellectual disabilities in which the patients’ families are present to make it easier and provide the psychiatrists with the necessary information, says Varrell.

Over the years, telepsychiatry has continued to grow both in volume and acceptance. Varrell notes how educating organizations such as the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University have big electives for all of their psychiatry residents who are mandated to learn telepsychiatry. And, InSight as a sole organization performed more than 100,000 encounters via telepsych in all settings last year (hospitals, clinics, treatment centers, universities), while its in-home platform, Inpathy, is still growing but has around 100 direct-to-consumer sessions in a week, according to officials.

“This is an area that used to be weird and hard, but now people are jumping into it,” says Varrell. “Doctors are calling us all of the time saying they want to work with us. That’s good since there’s a national shortage and we’re often begging doctors to work with us in person, but this is the opposite of that,” he says, noting how on one recent day alone, eight psychiatrists called looking for work.

Original article posted on Healthcare Informatics 

Long Beach, CA – Center for Family Guidance, PC, a comprehensive behavioral health organization (stylized as CFG), will be presenting at the OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute, taking place from August 15-16 in Long Beach, CA. The OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute brings together executives, thought leaders, industry experts and program innovators to focus on management best practices and clinical treatment tools.

On Wednesday, August 15, the clinical director of CFG will present during the session called Using Technology to Improve Consumer Engagement: A Look at Successful Models for Engagement. This session will feature “Getting Ahead of the Curve: Layering Home-Based Telehealth into an Existing Outpatient Mental Health Clinic” presented by Joel Freidman, PhD.

CFG recently implemented home-based telehealth into an existing outpatient mental health clinic in order to keep up with the national provider shortage, address consumer demand and stay competitive in an ever-changing healthcare landscape.

The program utilizes telehealth in two ways: providers are set up with access to a secure, web-based telehealth platform and are able to offer night and weekend appointments to new and existing consumers; consumers can be referred to CFG’s telehealth partner, Inpathy, if the individual is unable to make an in-person appointment or if CFG does not have resources available. This case study presentation will look at the design, implementation and ongoing lessons of this innovative program. Dr. Friedman will discuss challenges, advantages and important buy-in elements for the providers, consumers, administrators and intake coordinators involved.

The benefit of this program for is that it does not require travel and there are more appointment availabilities than in an in-person office setting. The benefit for providers is the convenience of seeing consumers from their own private home office.  Providers can also utilize Inpathy, an online psychiatry resource, for referrals.

Other speakers in this session include Richard Louis, III, Senior Associate at OPEN MINDS, and Larry Smith, CEO of Grand Lake Mental Health Center, Inc.

CFG is a broad based healthcare provider that is dedicated to increasing access to care via innovative applications of technology like telepsychiatry and virtual environments.