The 10 Best Features for Creating a Successful Behavioral Healthcare Program​

The 10 Best Features for Creating a Successful Behavioral Healthcare Program​

In light of the global pandemic, mental health has been a growing concern for doctors and patients everywhere. With rising stress, anxiety, and isolation, behavioral health services are more important now than ever.

What is a Behavioral Healthcare Program?

Behavioral health, sometimes referred to as mental health, is the study of emotions, behavior, and biology relating to someone’s mental well-being. Behavioral healthcare seeks to treat those who are struggling with issues like suicide ideation, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, substance abuse etc. 

The term behavioral healthcare can sometimes be applied broadly to treat physical symptoms brought on by behavioral ones, as many times patients suffering from mental illness face stigma at routine health examinations and are passed over for health-related advice. 

These patients then lack the timely treatment for things like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity, and their highly preventable diseases do not get treated. Given the delicate nature of these situations, behavioral health services seek to be highly patient-centered ones. Nurses, practitioners, and the patient’s families all desire the patient to have their needs met, to be properly educated, and for them to have all the desired support so that they can be a part of their own self-care. 

What are Behavioral Health Services?

Some examples of Behavioral Health services include:

  • Screenings
  • Treatment services like therapy, counseling
  • Medication
  • Supportive care for getting a job, housing, or education
  • Peer Support
  • Detoxification for substance abuse
  • Sessions with: Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social workers, Licensed professional counselors

Why is a Behavioral Health Program Important to your Practice?

Before COVID-19, the United States saw an increase in mental health issues, with 19% of adults experiencing mental illness in 2018, – a 1.5 million increase to the year before. In 2020, there was a 93% increase of anxiety screenings and a 62% increase of depression screenings. 

With suicide being the second leading cause of death from ages 10-34, there is a need for staff who are familiar with behavioral health procedures and protocols. 

A behavioral health program can ensure safe discharges, transitions, and follow ups for at-risk patients.  

What Are The 10 Tips For You To Have A Successful Behavioral Health Program?

Now that we understand what a behavioral health program is and why it’s so important to your practice, here are 10 tips to creating a successful program!

1. Maximize Telehealth/Telemedicine

Telemedicine is widely seen as a safe, distanced option during COVID-19, but was also gaining traction prior to the pandemic. From 2011 to 2018, telehealth usage grew 41%, with 76% of hospitals connecting to patients through telehealth. Now, telehealth functionality can be vital to patients as a behavioral health service. Patients can meet virtually from the comfort of their home with a doctor or psychiatrist. 

Not only is it practical for CDC guidelines, but studies have shown that many adults, and especially children are more likely to open a channel of communication if it is through telehealth, rather than them facing stigma in a traditional doctors office. Optimizing telehealth creates increased accessibility, convenience, and additional reimbursement opportunities, as well as reduced readmission rates. Not to mention, telehealth provides a wide reach for hard to reach patients, such as those in remote areas. 

When choosing telemedicine for behavioral health services, look for an option that’s HIPAA compliant, user friendly, and integrated with an EHR. Consider adding a telehealth platform as a means to treat patients.

Mebs Counseling Increases 100+ Encounters In One Week Using Telehealth

Mebs Counseling began delivering behavioral health services almost twenty years ago, providing children, families, adults and couples with evidence-based behavioral health and substance abuse wrap-around services in the Northern Kentucky area.

Mebs Counseling is unique in that most of their services and support are provided outside of the clinic. They work across schools, institutions, and off-site centers, often through a team approach that engages multiple caregivers for a single patient. While many of these sessions are conducted in person, Mebs Counseling needed a way to help ease connections between patients and caregivers through a remote care option like Azalea Health’s telehealth.

2. Choose a Cloud-based EHR

user-friendly EHR is crucial to any practice, as minutes spent clicking through a complicated EHR is less time spent on patients, but there are 5 features specifically that make an EHR helpful to treating mental health patients:

  • Care Coordination: Those who suffer from mental illness typically also suffer from other chronic comorbid illnesses. Therefore it is essential that your behavioral health program has an EHR that is capable of sharing records with other providers.
  • Billing Coordination: An EHR with practice management capabilities can aid with administrative problems.
  • Medication Monitoring: Medication monitoring is key for mental healthcare. A study of Medicaid beneficiaries in 10 states, found that psychiatric patients who did not receive prescribed medications visited emergency rooms 74% more than those who did. Proper care keeps people from further harm and repeat visits.
  • Clinical Decision Support Tools: These tools can provide timely information on the patient, recommendations for treatment and engagement, reminders for preventative care, and can even alert for dangerous situations.
  • Patient Engagement: Patients should be able to easily schedule appointments and message their provider. Many EHRs are comparable, but an EHR that can focus on patient engagement will be most beneficial when operating a BH practice. Additionally, telehealth is an essential part of patient engagement- look for an EHR platform that delivers a telehealth functionality that can be interoperable and easily integrated into your system.

3. Easy Implementation and Integration

Since many Americans feel stigma when it comes to making separate appointments for mental health visits with therapists/psychiatrists, it can be beneficial to integrate mental health into their primary care visits.

Some studies found that integrating a BH program alleviates the stress for both clinical providers, psychiatrists, and patients. Whether you are planning an integrated program, or an additional BH unit, the implementation process itself should not be arduous, and there are services online that provide additional BH implementation help.

4. Continue Care for Long-term Positive Outcomes

Continued care is beneficial for all patients suffering from mental health, but especially patients who have ongoing, serious mental illness. Continuity of care with a care plan is essential for these patients that might see many different doctors in their lifetime. 

A continued plan prepares new doctors with readily available information so that the patient must not go through a stressful process of detailing their personal medical history each time. Additionally, care plans have proven to lower Emergency department use by 29%.  

5. Stick to Your Budget

If you are planning on integrating or adding a behavioral health program, assess what you can afford. Factor in startup costs, clinic insurance, staff, and a marketing budget. Abide by industry benchmarks and track your expenses.  

6. Be Adaptable to Diverse Communities

Each community has unique behavioral health needs. Rural communities, for example, battle a large opioid crisis and on average have higher substance abuse rates. These communities might require additional behavioral health screenings and drug screenings. Always take your patient base into account. 

7. Establish a Well-defined, Well-Organized Practice

Is your Behavioral Health clinic one that will deliver niche care? Or will it deliver a more broad approach to mental health services?  Take tip 6, your community into consideration. Niche practices can be beneficial to specializing in one area of concern, but may not appeal to all patients. Before setting up your BH practice, decide what your clinic’s priorities will be. 

10 Free Telehealth Resources

We’ve got 10 form-free resources to help you get started with telehealth and maximize your new technology. From using telehealth, telehealth billing and even promoting that your practice now has telehealth, we’ve got the resources you need.

8. Mission Statement

A strong, but welcoming mission statement will set the nature of your practice. A mission statement should let patients know what services you provide, who you are serving, and set the tone for your quality and type of care. 

9. Reflect Client Goals

Goal-oriented care supports patient health and the well-being of chronic illness and comorbidities. It promotes self-defined health goals in the decision making process and helps providers manage multiple disease-specific guidelines with the patient’s desired state of well-being in mind. Goal-oriented care is most effective when applied early in the provider-patient relationship so that medical and non-medical goals are immediately defined and can be built upon. 

10. Training, Certification

Your BH program must be certified before opening. All providers who will be treating behavioral health patients must be qualified, licensed, trained, and certified personnel. 

Also, your program may qualify as a State Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, or CCBHC. These are state-run or non-profit centers, which are a new provider type in Medicaid, and can qualify for enhanced reimbursement rates. Here are the basic requirements for CCBHC certification:

  • Staffing: Size/quantity of staff in relation to the patient base, provider credentials, training, cultural competence
  • Availability and accessibility of services: a safe environment, location, timely-access, crisis management services, 
  • Care Coordination: Patient privacy, seamless care, 
  • Scope of services: Services provided, screenings, assessments, etc
  • Quality and other reporting: data reporting, tracking, 
  • Organizational authority, governance, and accreditation: Proper documentation

Though you may not qualify to be a CCBHC, these categories are still important and could be useful to you when considering starting a Behavioral Health clinic. 

Here is the link to the official State Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic CCBHC, which outlines the above 6 requirements in detail.