Behavioral health has consistently outranked all other care specialties in the use of telehealth. According to monthly tracking data from FAIR Health, among 35 billion commercial records analyzed, an incredible 61 percent of telehealth claim lines were attributed to mental health conditions.
What’s telling is that the trend continues to withstand the ebb and flow of pandemic surges. Tele-behavioral health has become an essential offering for providers. It’s convenient for patients, and it helps providers manage their caseloads more efficiently thanks to its distinct benefits, such as the way virtual care inherently eliminates travel time and reduces late arrivals that can throw the entire day off-schedule.
Tele-behavioral health platform use
Our most recent data confirms that behavioral health providers, primary care, hospital systems, and other clinical professionals have increased their use of secure virtual visits to treat patients with mental health and substance use disorders.
Since the start of the pandemic through the end of 2021, nearly 18,600 patients connected to their care providers via 70,648 video therapy sessions on the Tridiuum ONE® platform. Each month, the utilization grew significantly, with some individuals experiencing as many as 70 digital visits with their provider in that timeframe.
The Tridiuum ONE® platform facilitates measurement-based care in the convenient, effective tele-behavioral health environment. Prior to each appointment, the provider sends a link to the patient, prompting the patient to complete an assessment. Results of the assessment are available immediately for use in the session as discussion points between patient and provider.
In addition, providers can track the assessment data holistically — distilled into a Behavioral Health Index composite score — to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and refine the approach based on each patient’s progress. This measurement-based care model aligns perfectly with tele-behavioral health care delivery and supports outcomes improvement in less time.
Why providers prefer tele-behavioral health
Most behavioral health professionals are relatively new to telehealth and virtual visits, but the majority have found the channel to be a positive addition to their everyday practice. In fact, a Tridiuum survey of 476 providers revealed that 99 percent were using tele-behavioral health in 2020, with 96 percent saying they will continue to use it in the future.
1. Ease of use
Comments from providers highlighted the fact that using the virtual platform has won them over. One said: “I was previously someone that did not want to participate in teletherapy or video sessions at all. However, after doing it for the past two months and seeing how well the clients have responded to it, I see what a tremendous benefit it has been to them.” Another said: “Surprisingly very effective and worthwhile following my initial skepticism.”
2. Therapeutic alliance
More than 80 percent of providers reported that tele-behavioral health offers the same or better therapeutic alliance, and 36 percent said this important relationship between patient and provider was positively affected. More than 46 percent said it has produced a positive effect on retention of their patients as well.
3. Clinical workflow
When thinking about the clinical workflow, users of tele-behavioral health offered additional affirmative feedback about its impact, including one professional who said: “Everybody is on time and there were almost no cancellations.” In fact, more than 56 percent said it had no effect on the length of sessions, with another 31 percent saying it positively affected the length of sessions. Overall, about 85 percent said their clinical workflows were positively affected or not affected at all when using tele-behavioral health.
4. Clinical effectiveness
The true test of a treatment delivery channel is whether it’s clinically effective. One provider offered: “I have been surprised at the effectiveness, efficiency, and improved compliance and retention, due to the convenience factor. The issues of stress and difficulty making time for [appointments] is solved with telehealth. I’m also saving time and money.”
The vast majority of providers found tele-behavioral health to have a positive or neutral influence on clinical effectiveness. More than 80 percent found it to be effective, especially, as one professional noted, for clients who are experiencing anxiety about leaving the home.
The future of tele-behavioral health
In the future, providers indicate they will use tele-behavioral health for individual therapy (93 percent), couple therapy (39 percent), and family therapy (30 percent) most often.
While clinicians largely plan to continue using it as a care delivery channel, tele-behavioral health is not considered appropriate for all situations. For example, of the respondents, 23 percent stated they wouldn’t use it when treating active suicide ideation or for those who are at-risk for harm to others. Likewise, 10 percent will forgo the virtual model when there is a lack of client privacy or a need for in-person interaction, such as with play therapy.
Long-held views among stakeholders that behavioral health treatment is not as effective with virtual channels and that patients are not willing to embrace tele-behavioral health have been put to the test. These encouraging statistics show that tele-behavioral health has become a valuable asset in clinical care and workflow efficiency.