Telehealth service acceptance in behavioral health is on the rise

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There’s growing acceptance of telehealth services among healthcare behavioral organizations and state and federal officials.

In the past two years, healthcare industry recognition of the benefits of telehealth has continually increased, according to the law firm of Epstein Becker Green in Chicago finds, which has new data on 2018 updates to state telehealth laws, regulations and policies for behavioral health professionals.

“While the shortage of behavioral health providers has long been acknowledged, the use of telehealth technologies—including practice management systems and online patient portals—to provide greater access to behavioral health professionals has increasingly gained traction and continues to gain validation as an alternative model of care delivery,” authors of the report contend.

Also in 2018, the opioid epidemic is placing more pressure on state and federal legislators to increase access to telehealth technology to support behavioral health services.

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“As access to this method of care expands, it also opens the door for various subsets of medicine, including behavioral and telemental health,” says Amy Lerman, leader of the firm’s survey initiative and a healthcare and life sciences attorney at the law firm. “We are excited to find that it is still evolving, growing and improving Americans’ quality of life.”

Epstein Becker Green finds three core drivers of telehealth expansion. They include the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that expanded Medicare coverage for telehealth for beneficiaries in accountable care organizations; encouragement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for states to support telehealth to care for Medicaid recipients; and the fact that Massachusetts now is the only state not yet reimbursing for telehealth services.

Other positive trends in telehealth include increased access in schools, pediatric care, the Department of Veterans Affairs and senior citizens living at home.

Limitations to increased telehealth adoption include limited federal guidance on coverage and reimbursement and lack of meaningful payment by third-party insurers.

The survey, as well as apps available for downloading to a mobile device, are available here.

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