For healthcare organizations that offer mental health services, the challenges of psychiatrist staffing are all too familiar. Faced with a nationwide shortage of behavioral health providers, many healthcare facilities can’t hire fast enough to keep up with growing patient demand. Even among facilities that recruit behavioral health clinicians successfully, the process is often a big drain on time and resources, with the search for a psychiatrist costing $30,000 on average.
As behavioral health programs mature, these challenges can become even more complex for organizations. Many find they need clinicians with highly specialized skills to treat specific patients or conditions, making it especially difficult to find the right hire. Meanwhile, in-house staff can become overwhelmed with needs they may not be well-equipped to handle, from substance abuse to eating disorder issues. That’s where telepsychiatry comes in.
Pairing In-house Staff with Telemental Health
While some may think of in-house and virtual psychiatry as an either-or proposition, a growing number of healthcare facilities are supplementing in-house programs with teleclinicians to increase capacity, efficiency and expertise. Since these organizations already understand mental health care delivery, they’re often better able to identify their specific staffing needs, helping to make their programs more effective. Here are five reasons to consider augmenting in-house programs with telepsychiatry.
Keep in-house staff satisfied. Bringing on virtual clinicians not only lessens the workload for in-house staff, but also means they can play to their strengths. For example, if a staff psychiatrist is best suited for treating general anxiety and depression, hiring a telepsychiatrist to manage higher-acuity cases can make the on-site provider’s job more satisfying. By optimizing clinician workloads, organizations can reduce costly turnover and support continuity of care.
Provide a wider variety of specialized services. Finding an in-house psychiatrist is difficult enough but recruiting one specifically to treat children or substance abuse disorders can be nearly impossible in some areas. A recent University of Michigan study found that 74% of U.S. counties don’t have a single child and adolescent psychiatrist, 90% have no geriatric psychiatrists and 92% have no addiction psychiatrists. Those recruitment challenges also extend to other behavioral health roles. For example, demand for social workers will grow an estimated 16% by 2026, leaving many facilities struggling to fill positions. For organizations that already have in-house professionals to treat common conditions, telepsychiatry offers a cost-effective way to add these types of specialized skills to meet diverse patient needs. Based on patient volume, a partner with a wide clinician network can help healthcare organizations fill niche roles for as little as a few hours per week, far less than the cost of recruiting yet another full-time in-house staff member.
Eliminate recruiting costs and hassles. Mental health recruitment is expensive and can take months, from identifying the right resource to managing the complexities of credentialing. An external telepsychiatry partner can help ease these burdens, offering access to a variety of clinicians and handling all onboarding-related tasks. Once the clinician is in place, the right partner continues to provide wraparound support and oversee all employment-related details, supporting a healthy ongoing relationship with virtual and on-site behavioral health staff.
Regroup manages the entire lifecycle of its teleclinicians staffed at the care site, minimizing most administrative and clinical management required by on-site staff.
- Tap into the right expertise to launch virtual programs. Say you’re a large healthcare organization with a psychiatrist in New York and patients who need services in Pennsylvania. While many facilities consider “intra” telehealth to match professionals with patients inside their networks, delivering care virtually can be more challenging than they expect. A partner who specializes in telepsychiatry and provides a network of clinicians adept at care delivery over video can increase the success and efficacy of expanded services, integrating reliable videoconferencing into the facility’s existing systems and offering customized technical support to keep programs running smoothly.
Every Regroup partner has a dedicated technical team who manages equipment setup, clinician and staff onboarding, and ongoing technical support to address questions and minimize downtime.
- Empower primary care providers to deliver mental health care. In areas where behavioral health clinicians are scarce, primary care providers often take the lead on treating issues like anxiety and depression. Since PCPs aren’t mental health experts, however, they may not feel comfortable diagnosing and treating more complex conditions. By working with a teleclinician, PCPs can help more people access the treatment they need through a collaborative approach to care. A telepsychiatrist can treat patients with more acute issues directly while providing PCPs with guidance when needed on diagnoses, treatment planning and medications, enabling PCPs to treat certain conditions on their own. This collaborative approach has helped to dramatically improve capacity for rural healthcare system OSF HealthCare, slashing patient wait times from four months to one week.
The Importance of an Integrated Approach
When adding telepsychiatry to existing in-house programs, seamless integration is key. Using a revolving door of clinicians or professionals with generalized expertise can compromise care delivery and create inefficiencies. Instead, look for a partner who offers dedicated clinicians well-versed in your patient population that will remain with them throughout the duration of their care. Teleclinicians should ideally function like additional staff members, showing up to work every day, coordinating with in-house staff on patient care and following the organization’s clinical workflows, like electronic health record charting.
With the shortage of qualified psychiatrists continuing to grow, organizations need a cost-effective solution for their mental health staffing challenges. Through integrated telepsychiatry, facilities can expand into new service areas, improve satisfaction for on-site providers, and build a mental health program that meets patient and organizational needs.
Contact Regroup for information on how we can partner with your organization to integrate high-quality clinical capacity with in-house behavioral health staff.