Health plans are dramatically escalating their coverage of telehealth for medical care and mental health care. Consider:
-UnitedHealth says that 20 million Americans could access and receive coverage from telehealth providers by 2016;
-Anthem also projects 20 million to be covered in 2016;
-Forty-four states reimburse for telehealth-provided services under their Medicaid plans
-Walgreen’s will offer virtual visits in 25 states by the end of 2016;
-CVS is expanding virtual visits nationwide.
Here is a national coverage map of telemedicine parity mandates. (Parity mandates require telemedicine coverage be equivalent to on site coverage):
Recently, my wife came down with a painful rash while we were travelling out of state. Rather than go to the local ER–there are no nearby urgent care centers–she called doctorondemand.com. A few minutes later she had a virtual visit with a PCP. The PCP asked some questions, examined the rash, and prescribed medication. The visit took about 10 minutes and it was a revelation. The video quality was much better than Skype or Google Hangouts and was good enough for the doctor to examine the rash and make a diagnosis. Her condition was cured in a matter of days. She didn’t have to pay anything because of a special offered by doctorondemand–returning visits are $49. Compared to a visit to the local ER, the time and inconvenience, the potential higher cost of an ER visit to the insurance company–it’s hard not to see that telemedicine, in many instances, is a compelling value proposition.
For mental health clinicians offering teletherapy services makes good business sense. Whether a client relocates, travels, returns to school, etc. your ability to continue visits is unimpeded. You will also be able to offer your services to clients in any state where you are licensed, extending the reach of your practice. (Most states require clinicians to be licensed in the state where the patient is located but this is changing). And you can provide services to clients who, for a variety of reasons, are disinclined to visit a practitioner’s office: agoraphobia, fear of stigma, reside in a remote area, physically disabled, etc.
There are a number of mental health sites offering telemental health services, e.g. breakthrough.com, etherapi.com, wecounsel.com. Next month CarePaths will launch a new site, teletherapistfinder.com. It will provide a national directory of teletherapists. Unlike breakthrough, etherapi, etc, it will be free to CarePaths users. Clinicians will be able to list their practice, have a listing page where they can upload a picture and practice information. Other features will include secure messaging and autoregistration.