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Special Guest: Qualifacts’ Gary V. Broadbent, LCSW, JD/MBA, is the former Director of Tele-Behavioral Health at Banner Health. Under his direction tele-behavioral health sessions were conducted by providers to clients of all ages in a variety of settings and geographic locations.

Behavioral health and human services professionals are used to thinking on their feet. Reacting to unexpected circumstances and pivoting related care plans and objectives, is nothing new.

Still, even the best disaster-response plans weren’t set up with COVID-19, or novel Coronavirus, in mind. The pandemic’s onset, and the need for social distancing, have meant a disruption in services and support that few, if any, providers have ever experienced. Providers have responded by exploring the most efficient, and immediate, solutions possible, that keep their teams, clients and communities safe. One of the leading solutions for care delivery is telehealth.

Eased restrictions and client demand = a ‘just in time’ resource

Telehealth is nothing new, especially in the acute-care world. Many insurance providers and healthcare organizations have created smartphone apps allowing people to tap into online medical expertise, or speak with a care professional to resolve an issue, thus avoiding the need to leave home if sick.

The behavioral health community also has long recognized the value of telehealth for effective engagement, especially for providers who have clients in rural areas, or who cover a large geographic territory. Now, with eased compliance and reimbursement restrictions allowing for a more robust deployment, agencies are standing up or expanding telehealth services. And here’s what they are identifying as essential to that process:

  • A reliable HIPAA compliant video-conferencing application
  • Staff training for client safety and remotely managing specific crisis situations, such as risk of self-harm
  • Client education and access to technology and a secure connection
  • Training on a user-friendly telehealth platform and the related compliance changes

Telehealth Reimbursement and Federal Guidelines

Uncertainty around reimbursement is very real, both in terms of whether or not telehealth is covered to when actual payments may take place. In response, providers also are taking steps to ensure that they capture all relevant clinical data around each telehealth encounter. That, along with utilizing EHR functionality around this data capture, should make reporting and claims processing go more smoothly, Qualifacts recently hosted a webinar, Telehealth Fundamentals In CareLogic, for our customers. You can find the replay in the CareLogic Community here.)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), through its 1135 waiver, in addition to many states have recently broadened access to telehealth services on a temporary and emergency basis, and more states are likely to do so. Providers must continually check with CMS, state agencies and commercial payers for the latest information around telehealth, and then make sure programs fall in line with those mandates. CMS has even released a toolkit and fact sheet that addresses many basic questions.

It’s also worth mentioning that today’s emergency measures are likely going to impact how clients and providers view telehealth services in a post-Coronavirus world. It’s not too soon for providers to think about how to measure reimbursement as well as client and staff satisfaction related to these new workflows. This information can then help inform decisions on how best to leverage telehealth in the future to provide client care.

COVID-19 Resources for Behavioral Health

It’s hard to find everything in one spot, and a digest can be your friend right now. Qualifacts has begun compiling verifiable information from trusted sources around behavioral health and COVID-19, which you can access here.

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