The rise of telehealth, also known as virtual health, has made it easier to connect with clinical professionals who can treat mental health and substance use clients. However, many telehealth visits fall short of the mark because they fail to incorporate critical best practices and for existing clients remember their care plans. Fortunately, these common mistakes are easy to avoid once providers know what should be in place for themselves and their clients. The following six best practices will help ensure that telehealth visits go smoothly and provide effective treatment from the first visit.
What Is a Telehealth Visit?
A telehealth visit is an appointment via video conference instead of in person. Providers and clients can use a computer, smartphone, or tablet with a webcam. Telehealth visits are convenient because they can occur anywhere, saving the provider and client valuable time. Convenience is an important factor for telehealth visits.
Have the Right Technology
Both parties must have the right technology to have a great telehealth visit. Both must have a high-quality camera, microphone, and internet connection. Plus, the software is up to date, HIPAA compliant, and you have a backup plan in case of technical difficulties.
Remember to use an up-to-date HIPAA-compliant telehealth solution. Some services, like secure messaging apps, can use outdated software to encrypt messages so hackers can intercept them.
You have to consider cybersecurity. Using electronic health records to monitor behavioral health patients, you’ll need security measures to protect sensitive information. Don’t give out any unnecessary personal information, and make sure all of your data is encrypted and stored securely. Fortunately, there are solutions, like EchoVantage EHR, that ensure secure communication and an easy interface.
Be Available for Your Clients
Your patients are counting on you to be available when they need you. They need to easily access your schedule and find times that work for them. They also need to know the average wait time and the average length of sessions.
One way to demonstrate availability is to have a published schedule with open appointment slots for any time during the day or evening. You should also have an effective answering system to ensure that patients get in touch with someone when they need to set up an appointment. A scheduling system is much easier if you have the appropriate software.
Keep Electronic Health Records
If you’re looking to improve your telehealth visits, keeping electronic health records is a key area to focus on. It’s crucial to have access to accurate and up-to-date health records during telehealth sessions so that providers can make informed decisions about the client’s treatment plan. With an EHR in place, providers can easily complete concurrent documentation while on the call with the client, ensuring the health record is up to date.
The first step to using your EHR properly during telehealth visits is making sure that you’re maintaining it correctly. The second step is setting up a system so that all relevant information—including client notes, lab results, and medication lists—is always up-to-date. A visual health record like EchoVantage provides all clinical information in a single view. A visual health record will save providers time, which they can then spend engaging with the client without losing the clinical history that may be important.
Proactively Address Barriers to Treatment Engagement
One of the benefits of telehealth is that it can help break down barriers to client treatment engagement. Some barriers include stigma, transportation, cost, or even getting prescriptions by providing virtual care. Clients can choose where they are most comfortable, which may help to eliminate these barriers. You can also integrate other modes of therapy with your telemedicine platforms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and cognitive processing therapy, which have proven to increase treatment adherence rates.
Develop protocols with community resources. If patients don’t have access to needed services, offer them information on how to get those services locally. An example is connecting clients with food banks if they’re struggling financially. Utilizing the information in their electronic health record during a telehealth behavioral health visit can proactively address issues that prevent them from receiving proper treatment, including elements of the Social Determinants of Health.
Never Neglect Screening
Whether the client is new or continuing, it’s important never to neglect screening. Behavioral health is complicated, and the client may not always know how to articulate what they’re feeling. Asking the right questions, or having the client complete an electronic assessment, can help you get to the root of the problem and provide better care. Find out more about your patient by asking:
- What brings them to seek treatment?
- How are they managing their daily life?
- What’s going well?
- What could be improved?
- Having the client complete a PHQ9 or GAD7
The assessments and answers should be documented in their electronic health record to better prepare for their next visit. Reviewing the results will allow you to ensure that you address any outstanding issues at the next session.
Always Collaborate with Other Professionals as Needed
When working in the behavioral health field, collaborating with other professionals is always important. Working with other professionals helps to ensure that all patients receive the best possible care. Sometimes, specialists must handle certain patient cases. It is also important to contact other behavioral health providers for co-occurring conditions such as depression or substance abuse because they may require different interventions and treatment plans.
Maintaining a personalized treatment for all patients is important, so properly documenting sessions in electronic medical records can be the key to client success. Agencies see many clients regularly, meaning important client information may be lost if not documented correctly and maintained in an Electronic Health Record designed to support collaboration. Schedule a time with The Echo Group to discuss how our behavioral health record software can make a difference for you and your clients.