- Patients often face significant barriers to mental healthcare
- Telehealth enables patients to receive mental healthcare, regardless of their location
- Providers can promote greater access to mental healthcare services using a secure healthcare communications platform
For years, Americans have suffered in silence with mental health issues; they’ve lacked access due to barriers such as cost and a lack of clinicians to treat them. The events of 2020 were a breaking point. Months of isolation and volatility led to anxiety and other mental health issues. It became clear that Americans need greater access to affordable mental healthcare.
Healthcare providers, even if they don’t specialize in mental health, can help their patients access mental and behavioral healthcare services thanks to the rise of telehealth. Read on to learn what steps they can take to provide care for patients’ physical and psychological needs.
The problem with mental healthcare in the US
A 2020 report showed that 57 percent of American adults with mental illness don’t receive treatment. There are some significant cost barriers. For example, only 56 percent of psychiatrists accept commercial insurance as compared to their peers practicing other specialties.
Moreover, there’s a shortage of qualified mental healthcare providers in the US. Over 112 million Americans live in areas where mental health providers are scarce; 55 percent of counties in the US don’t have a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker.
2020 – A watershed moment for mental health
The year 2020 was a watershed moment for mental health awareness and usage. As a result of a global health crisis, Americans were isolated and scared. Suddenly, it was no longer safe to do so many day-to-day activities.
Americans utilized mental and behavioral health services in record numbers. Research from Cigna revealed that between March 2020 and March 2021, outpatient behavioral telehealth visits rose 27 percent. Even as telehealth visits for other specialties decreased as society began to recover, patients still held telehealth appointments with their mental healthcare providers.
Mental healthcare became more accessible during the pandemic as regulations changed. Not only did providers receive reimbursement for telehealth appointments (something that wasn’t always the case), but licensing laws were relaxed so providers could treat patients outside of their jurisdiction.
How can healthcare providers maintain mental healthcare momentum?
As society begins to recover and healthcare providers see more patients in person, how can they maintain the momentum of 2020, in which more Americans got the mental healthcare they desperately needed?
There are some things that healthcare providers can do to promote mental health services:
- Offer telehealth services
- Utilize the right healthcare communications platform
- Ensure continuity of care, regardless of health restrictions
- Reduce some of the barriers to care
- Prioritize security for patient peace of mind and regulatory compliance
Offer telehealth services
The first step to making mental healthcare more accessible is by offering telehealth. Before the spring of 2020, less than one percent of mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment sessions were held through telehealth.
Telehealth enables greater access to mental healthcare for patients living in areas without providers. It also reduces the stigma of seeking treatment for mental health issues. If you can receive help from the comfort of your own home, you’re more likely to do it.
Utilize the right healthcare communications platform
Using the right healthcare communications platform makes it easier to deliver telehealth services.
A healthcare communications platform built on a unified communications platform allows providers to connect to patients through chat, video conference, and telephony. It also works on mobile devices, so patients don’t need to be in front of a desktop.
Moreover, it should be easy to use for patients and providers. Neither party should have to struggle because that diminishes the patient experience (and hurts patient engagement).
A telehealth communications platform should also make it easy to share information with the rest of a patient’s care coordination team. A mental healthcare provider could send a secure text or hold a video conference with a patient’s primary care physician to discuss medication or treatment plans.
Ensure continuity of care, regardless of health restrictions
As mentioned earlier, the healthcare crisis of 2020 made it unsafe for people to gather, especially in small spaces. Many healthcare providers stopped seeing patients in person.
For patients with mental health needs, continuity of care is crucial. Switching providers means they have to build a new relationship with someone else, which can be challenging. By utilizing telehealth services, patients can stay with the same provider by seeing them virtually.
Reduce the barriers to care
The American healthcare system is grappling with numerous issues. Access to mental health is one of them. There are several things that need to change for widespread, affordable access to mental healthcare to be widely available. However, the first step is for mental healthcare providers to reach out to underserved populations through telehealth.
With a healthcare communications platform, providers can reach patients in rural areas or areas where there’s a shortage of mental health professionals. Patients don’t have to travel long distances to receive mental healthcare.
Prioritize security for patient peace of mind and regulatory compliance
If you’re a patient sharing your mental health issues with a provider, you want to know that your personal information won’t wind up in the wrong hands. In 2020, millions of patient records were breached as a result of poor security practices.
Market-leading healthcare communications platforms utilize multiple layers of security, as well as 24/7 platform monitoring, end-to-end encryption, and proactive fraud mitigation. Patients feel secure that their personal data won’t be compromised, while providers adhere to regulations and don’t risk fines and penalties.
Provide mental health telehealth services with RingCentral’s healthcare communications platform
RingCentral’s healthcare communications platform helps providers deliver the mental healthcare their patients need. The omnichannel platform offers providers and patients flexibility, reliability, and security, so patients receive vital treatment while providers stay compliant with regulations. To learn more, request a demo.
Originally published Aug 25, 2021, updated Oct 18, 2023