Telepsychiatry in Arizona

Telepsychiatry can be used to augment behavioral health services in a variety of facilities including hospitals, federally qualified health centers, community clinics, correctional facilities, outpatient offices, primary care offices, crisis centers, schools, geriatric facilities and more.

Currently, communities throughout the state are using telepsychiatry to bring behavioral health care to those in need. Both non-profit and for-profit institutions and their patients are benefitting from increased access to behavioral health.

Telepsychiatry in Arizona is growing. Rural area healthcare centers, the Arizona Department of Corrections, the University of Arizona, and secondary educational facilities have all implemented successful telepsychiatry programs.

Arizona is also invested in telemedicine ventures and the state level. The Arizona Telemedicine Council was created by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee of the Arizona State Legislature in 1996.

Reimbursement for Telepsychiatry

In Arizona, telepsychiatry and other telehealth services are reimbursed by Arizona’s Medicaid agency, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) only if the service is considered ‘medically necessary.’

Private insurance companies are not required to cover telepsychiatry or any other telehealth service.

However, as of January 1, 2015 all new or renewed policies must provide coverage for telehealth services if the health care service would be provided through in-person care and if the consumer receiving the service is in a rural region of Arizona.

Use the Rural Assistance Center’s “Am I Rural?” tool to determine the status of your community.

For more information and the most up-to-date reimbursement guidelines for private payers and Medicaid visit the Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law (CTeL).

Emergency Telepsychiatry
Emergency departments and psychiatric crisis centers use telepsychiatry to deliver timely psychiatric evaluations and care. Given the shortage of psychiatrists and the 24/7 nature of psychiatric crisis within hospital emergency rooms, a large strain has been placed on the limited number of psychiatrists that are available to properly assess consumers in psychiatric crisis. As a result, the system often relies heavily on other healthcare professionals, with significantly less behavioral health specific training and experience, to determine disposition. This often leads to more commitments and hospitalizations than are clinically merited. In addition to not being the most appropriate and least restrictive level of care for the consumers, inappropriate admissions represent significant costs to the system.

Outpatient Telepsychiatry
Outpatient offices are turning to telepsychiatry as a way to bring consistent psychiatric care to consumers in need. With telepsychiatry, outpatient offices can have access to child and adolescent psychiatrists, substance abuse specialists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, geriatric psychiatrists and more. Outpatient telepsychiatrists can provide services along all steps of the care continuum from attending care team meetings to offering regular psychiatric evaluations and medication management. Outpatient telepsychiatry is not meant to replace in-person care but to enhance it.

Correctional Telepsychiatry
Correctional telepsychiatry significantly cuts costs for correctional facilities because inmates no longer need to be escorted and transported to off-site appointments and psychiatric interventions.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has successfully implemented a telepsychiatry program that pairs psychiatrists based in Phoenix with 10 rural prisons throughout the state.

Primary Care Telepsychiatry
Primary care telepsychiatry facilitates integration and can allow consumers to receive both medical and behavioral health care at one facility. Primary care integration consolidates healthcare records and services, improves collaboration and empowers consumers to better manage their health. Studies have shown that primary care integrations leads to lowered no show rates and more proactive consumers. Telemedicine applications like telepsychiatry aid in the successful implementation of a primary care integration programs.