Telepsychiatry in Illinois
Why is telepsychiatry a good solution for improving Illinois’ behavioral health services?
Illinois, like many other states across the country, suffers from a shortage of psychiatric prescribers. US News reports only 1 psychiatrist for every 7,200 Illinois residents4.
Telepsychiatry is an effective medium of care that increases access to Illinois-licensed providers and specialists who may live in other parts of the country as well as to providers who are spread out throughout the state. Telepsychiatry is also a way to better leverage the time of existing Illinois-based psychiatric prescribers who could seamlessly transition between appointments at different sites without having to physically travel.
Telepsychiatry is especially useful in rural areas. With telepsychiatry, facilities that offer behavioral health services can provider onsite psychiatric care to consumers in need using remote providers. Routine telepsychiatry reduces travel times, reduces costs and increases the care capacity of facilities.
In hospitals, telepsychiatry can be an important way of reducing ED crowding and boarding, which according to the ACEP is a major concern. Currently, Illinois only has 21.1 psychiatric beds per every 100,000 people2. Using telepsychiatry would reduce inappropriate admissions, reduce risks, save costs and improve ED throughput.
Where is telepsychiatry being used in Illinois?
Illinois legislators know that telemedicine is an important issue on the table and proposed legislation, Senate Bill 3319 (also House Bill 5313), is currently pending. The bill, also called the “Telemedicine Act,” defines the services encompassed by the term ‘telehealth’ as well as acceptable forms of treatment and care to be delivered through telehealth. This includes behavioral health and substance use treatments. Additionally, the bills would require private health insurance plans to provide coverage for services delivered appropriately through telehealth.
Illinois has already adopted some forms of telemedicine. Medicaid will reimburse for telepsychiatry sessions as long as a series of criteria are met2:
-Another licensed healthcare professional must be present at all times with the consumer while he confers with the remote provider
-The remote provider must be licensed by the state of Illinois
-The remote provider must be in good standing with the Department of Health’s medical programs
-The consumer is receiving care at a qualified originating site
What other settings could benefit from telepsychiatry in Illinois?
Telepsychiatry can be used to augment the care capacity of most facilities that offer behavioral health services including:
-Mobile Crisis Units
-Primary Care Facilities
What are obstacles to practicing telepsychiatry in Illinois?
The stringent guidelines for acceptable telepsychiatry reimbursement in Illinois make it difficult for remote providers to practice effectively.
Because reimbursement requires that another physician be physically located in the room with the consumer, certain aspects of telepsychiatry, primary psychotherapy, are compromised.
Currently, private insurance companies are not required to reimburse for telepsychiatry or telemedicine in Illinois.
For information on the most up-to-date reimbursement guidelines for private payers and Medicaid visit the Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law (CTeL). Medicare will reimburse for telepsychiatry services when a community is considered rural.
Am I Rural? Use the Rural Assistance Center’s “Am I Rural?” tool to determine the status of your community.
What types of providers are available through telepsychiatry?
-Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
-Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
-Substance Use Specialists
-Integrative Psychiatry Specialists
Sources1) Seattle Times: Department of Health and Human services at Washington State Institute for Public Policy, Legislation Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee 2) Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center 3) Center for Telehealth and E-Law 4) US News Health