3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Implementing Telepsychiatry

There’s a lot to consider when implementing telepsychiatry into your health system, but first, let’s explore what telepsychiatry really is...

Telepsychiatry is an innovative practice in healthcare where the field of psychiatry uses technology, or telemedicine, to improve patient and provider access. It generally refers to the delivery of psychiatric assessment and care via telecommunications technology, typically video conferencing.

Telepsychiatry equips health systems across the nation with the tools to provide high quality, accessible and affordable mental healthcare to their patients. We have an ever-increasing demand for mental healthcare in the United States, which is directly affected by our national shortage of psychiatric providers. Telepsychiatry is a solution that is transforming the way care is delivered. It’s allowing hospitals and health clinics in rural and underserved areas to recruit excellent providers and improve patient care while reducing or maintaining costs.

So it makes sense why so many people are considering creating their own telepsychiatry department. But where do you even begin?

It can seem overwhelming, but we’ve found that asking yourself three simple questions can help you take the right steps to implement a successful telepsychiatry program.

1. Why telepsychiatry? Are you looking to add, maintain or grow psychiatric services?

Do you have psychiatrists, but you just need a few more people to help with the patient load? Is your health clinic located in a remote area where it’s hard to recruit or retain doctors? Knowing whether your organization will use telepsychiatry to supplement in-person care or will use telepsychiatry as the main vehicle to care is critical to determining your plan moving forward.

If you plan to supplement current on-site psychiatric providers with a telepsychiatry provider, then you need to determine how their workflows will mirror each other. You will also need to develop best practices for your care team’s communication.

If you plan on hiring a telepsychiatrist and solely use telepsychiatry in your organization, then your on-site staff will need to be prepared to make small changes to the current workflow in order integrate the remote provider and ensure your program is successful.

We have seen both methods work successfully in various settings and knowing which one you plan to use ahead of time is a key factor.

2. What technology will you use to deliver telepsychiatry? Do you have any existing hardware and software that you can use for your telepsychiatry program?

Maybe you have a few spare laptops in a closet somewhere. Maybe you tried implementing telemedicine in the past and it didn’t work out so well leaving you with equipment from this attempt. Maybe you have some carts hiding in the basement.

It doesn’t need to be complicated or require a large up-front investment. A lot of times, people already have equipment that can be repurposed for telepsychiatry, which often reduces the early fees of getting started. As far as software goes, telepsychiatrists will typically document into your existing EMR and use simple video conferencing platforms, like Skype for Business.

Even if you don’t have much equipment or any equipment at all startup fees truly are minimal. All you really need is a laptop with a high quality camera and microphone, but knowing what you already have, and what you need, helps get the ball rolling.

3. How will you build your telepsychiatry program? Will you keep it in-house or will you work with another organization, such as a telepsychiatry provider vendor, or telepsychiatry provider services organization?

Do you have the know-how, equipment, and people to start a telepsychiatry department on your own? Or would you like the support, expertise and assistance of an experienced telepsychiatry provider partner?

Many groups have the resources and infrastructure to start in-house telepsychiatry on their own. For other organizations, that’s simply not a desire, or even a reality. If you’re going to partner with another organization, you probably want it to be the best one out there, right? After all, they will be working with your patients and your staff. You want a partner that is a leading industry expert with the experience to be a true consultant, working alongside you every step of the way to develop and deliver a custom telepsychiatry solution.

About Iris Telehealth

Iris Telehealth is a telepsychiatry provider organization made up of the highest quality psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners. Our mission is to provide underserved communities with access to the best mental health specialists and prescribers. We are owned and operated by doctors who understand what patients need and have earned a reputation for providing outstanding customer service. Iris values building strong professional relationships with our partners and their staff. We are dedicated to understanding your organization’s needs and operational goals because we recognize that your success is critical to our own.

Iris Telehealth has helped countless hospitals and community health organizations across the country add telepsychiatry to their list of services. We believe everyone should have access to compassionate mental health care, and we have made it our mission to find innovative, affordable ways of making this possible!

Want to learn more?

Click here to download a free telepsychiatry guide.

Vanessa Daves-Poarch is the Marketing Coordinator for Iris Telehealth.