There is a massive problem growing right underneath the noses of the medical community. Just look at the latest statistics from community health centers. Since 2010, visits to community health centers for behavioral health services, such as mental health and substance use, have increased by a startling 83%. That is not simply a statistic — it’s 10 million people a year flocking to these centers, seeking help for critical behavioral health services.
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are a hub for behavioral health professionals because they are often more accessible than other medical facilities and provide a more robust range of services.
There are, however, obstacles to providing the best, most comprehensive services to individuals in need.
- The first problem is that a behavioral health counselor or counseling centers often prefer to be able to bill for two types of visits in one day via Medicaid. However, billing for two types of visits in one day is only approved and legal for Washington, DC and 32 other states through the US. That’s nearly 20 states that still have patients sent away and are forced to come back for multiple days of appointments, which could delay treatment and decrease likelihood to return for care.
- The second issue is that the list of billable behavioral health professionals is quite limited. Expanding this list would make care more accessible.
These barriers are hindering community health centers ability to treat patients in need. Telehealth, however, may be the key to solving the issue. With better connectivity and more efficient technology — including video conferencing and app-based platforms that allow caregivers to connect with patients wherever they are — online therapy is filling the gap for services, and at a far lower cost. As more solutions come online, the price for technology continues to drop.
Advances in telehealth are already helping to ease the burden on community health centers. Online therapy advances like Telehealth are driving efficiency and helping health centers meet demands — and its use is growing quickly. As of 2016, more than half of health centers (about 57%), were either using the benefits of telehealth and online counseling already or, at the very least, considering it. The ability to connect with a virtual therapy professional can make a massive difference to efficiency and the bottom line — but also individual’s lives.