As telepsychiatry continues to expand across healthcare settings, many primary care providers (PCPs) are seizing the opportunity to meet their patients’ behavioral health needs. With 90 million Americans living in mental health shortage areas, a PCP is often their only connection to the healthcare system.PCPs regularly see patients facing anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, but since they’re not mental health experts, they may not feel comfortable diagnosing and treating more complex conditions or presentations.
By working with a telepsychiatry provider, PCPs can help more people access the treatment they need through a collaborative, effective care approach. Here’s a closer look at the different ways primary care centers can implement telepsychiatry to serve patients better.
Focusing on collaboration
While many people think of telepsychiatry as a clinician and patient meeting live on-screen, a growing number of PCPs are using telepsychiatry for professional consultation, as well as direct patient care. Under the professional consultation or eConsult model, PCPs ask telepsychiatrists questions directly about diagnoses, treatment planning, and medications. This expert guidance can help PCPs determine diagnoses and prescribe medications with more confidence. If PCPs are uncomfortable prescribing certain psychotropic medications, they can refer the patient to an experienced telepsychiatrist, who can provide a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
By using telepsychiatry for both direct care and eConsults, PCPs are able to treat more patients with psychiatric presentations themselves, while ensuring patients can access specialized support more quickly if needed. In communities where mental health access is scarce, eConsults can improve access by reducing the need to refer patients to a telepsychiatrist. For OSF HealthCare, a healthcare system serving rural Illinois, adopting an eConsult model along with face-to-face telepsychiatry helped to slash psychiatric wait times from four months to one week.
Creating the perfect match
When choosing a telepsychiatrist, PCPs should think of that clinician as more than just filling a void for care. The telepsychiatrist should be an integral part of the team, making their role as important as any other clinician or staff member. Key areas to consider include:
- A passion for providing collaborative care and working with the in-house team
- Past experience with the patient population, including demographics, mental health conditions and social and cultural factors
Because telepsychiatry expands the provider pool beyond the limits of geography, finding a clinician with the right skill set and experience becomes a much simpler process. A strong working relationship between PCP and telepsychiatrist promotes patient-centered care, helping each patient achieve the best outcomes possible.
Learn how OSF HealthCare’s PCPs are leveraging telepsychiatry to reduce wait times dramatically while delivering patient and provider satisfaction.