How To Know If Telepsychiatry Is Right For Your Health System

Telepsychiatry is a great way to improve access to care for your patients -- but is it right for you?

While telepsychiatry can work in nearly every setting, that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense for everyone. When considering whether to start your own telepsychiatry program, there are a lot of questions to ask yourself.

The biggest one: Is telepsychiatry the right solution for us?

How can you know? Well, we believe knowledge is power. So let’s dive right into what telepsychiatry is and everything you need to know to get your own telepsych department started.

How Telepsychiatry Works

Starting your own telepsychiatry program can be intimidating, which is completely understandable! Often times, the biggest hesitation comes with not really knowing or understanding how it works. The great thing is, it’s not that complicated. In fact, we always tell people when telepsychiatry is done right, it mirrors on-site patient care in nearly every way -- regardless of setting. The “tele” part is just a tool -- a tool to connect your patients with an awesome psychiatric provider.

Integration is key. With proper workflows and consistent, simple technology telepsychiatrists can integrate fairly seamlessly into your clinic or hospital’s care team and systems.  

For example, our psychiatrists work directly into the EMRs of the health system, just like on-site staff, and concurrently document their notes while seeing patients. We’ve found this reduces disruption in communication between the care team and improves continuity of care for the patient. It also allows the telepsych provider to establish and cultivate strong relationships with staff and patients, which makes the whole process much easier.

Simple and effective technology systems also play an important role. You don’t need fancy IT systems -- your staff has enough work on their plates already! We highly recommend testing your IT solutions, training staff and performing dry-runs prior to the launch of your telepsychiatry program. Connectivity issues, poor network speeds and complicated software and hardware often cause disruptions that can affect the patient’s experience. The ultimate goal is for the technology to fade into the background during the e-visit.

The Patient's Perspective

Technology has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives and, in a world where technology is king, patients are growing more and more comfortable with the intersection of healthcare and IT. Studies show that nearly 75 percent of patients are comfortable with using telemedicine and more than 95 percent are “very satisfied” with their telemedicine encounters.

Here’s why: The only difference is there’s a screen between the doctor and the patient.

Most people are familiar -- and comfortable with -- Facetiming and video chatting to keep in touch with friends and family members. Telemedicine isn’t any different than these virtual interactions many of us have on a daily basis. When you boil it down, a successful telemedicine interaction usually involves a provider who excels at connecting with people over video -- which is a unique skill that not everyone has.

Finding the Right Provider

Not every great psychiatrist makes great telepsychiatrist. And it comes down to more than just tech-savviness.

Telepsychiatrists need to be flexible -- because if something changes, they’ve got to be comfortable going with the flow. They need to be personable -- because sometimes there is a little bit of legwork to make the patient comfortable and a little more skill to create human connection over video. They need to be excellent communicators -- because they don’t have the luxury of walking over to their colleagues’ offices. Most importantly, they need to fit into your culture and have shared belief in your values and mission. They have to be the right choice for you.

It can be hard to find the right provider for many reasons -- particularly with psychiatrists being a diminishing resource. Finding the right provider is easy... when you know how to attract them. What that means for you is making your clinic/organization an appealing place for them to work. Be open and honest about your patient population, your clinical expectations and the characteristics you are looking for in a provider. When a provider is passionate about the type of work they will be doing, it’s a “win-win-win” for the provider, for you, and for your patients.

How Telepsychiatry Technology and Software Work

Telepsychiatry...even the word sounds complicated. And if you start thinking too hard about the technology and software that’s needed for telepsychiatry, you might get bogged down. But here’s the thing: Luckily, it’s much easier than you think.

We always tell people you don’t need much to start telepsychiatry in your organization. A laptop, maybe a mic, and your preferred video software platform. The rest will come together rather easily.

As mentioned previously, our world is dominated by technology. Most people are comfortable with it, and this will be a huge asset if and when you launch your telepsychiatry program. The bottom line is, fear of technology shouldn’t stop you from utilizing telepsychiatry and simplicity is key.

So... Is Telepsychiatry Right For You?

Now that you (hopefully) have a better understanding of how to start telepsychiatry, you can easily determine if it’s right for your organization. Telepsychiatry can work in almost any setting and can be a great solution to improving patient care all while creating more efficient systems for your organization.

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 Content Marketing Specialist for Iris Telehealth.