Telehealth Integration: Expanding Access to Behavioral Health Services

The COVID-19 pandemic sped up the adoption of telehealth right across the healthcare industry. Out of necessity, providers rapidly shifted in-person care to virtual care. What many found out because of this transition is that telehealth really is an effective way of increasing access to care – particularly for behavioral health services. According to the mental healthcare experts at Horizon Health, as telehealth becomes a permanent fixture, hospitals and mental health management companies are starting to integrate it into care models to expand access.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth encompasses a range of technologies so as to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. It lets patients connect with providers via video conferencing, phone calls, mobile apps, and other methods. It makes it possible to conduct appointments, counseling sessions, consultations, and more without having to actually visit a healthcare facility.

Benefits of Telehealth for Behavioral Health

While telehealth does have applications across medicine, it is especially impactful when it comes to delivering behavioral health services. Some key benefits of this are:

Increased Access to Care

Telehealth really does break down those geographic barriers that often limit access to behavioral health services. Patients in remote or rural areas can connect with providers that are located somewhere else. The technology also makes care more convenient by removing the need to travel to appointments.

More Appointment Availability

With telehealth, providers can scale their services to offer more appointments on any given day. They are no longer limited by the physical space or staffing available in brick-and-mortar facilities. Telehealth has made it easier for patients to get scheduled for care sooner than before.

Privacy and Anonymity

Some patients might be hesitant to seek in-person behavioral health care because of privacy concerns. The anonymity of virtual appointments could help more patients feel comfortable accessing required services. It allows patients to meet with providers from the comfort of their own homes.

Lower Costs

Delivering care via telehealth is often more affordable than in-person services. The cost savings come from reduced overhead for facilities and staffing. Over time, the lower costs of virtual care could make behavioral health services more financially accessible.

Scalability and Convenience

Because telehealth is virtual, it provides immense flexibility to scale services up or down as needed. Providers can easily add appointments to keep up with demand. The technology also allows patients to join sessions from anywhere via phone, computer, or mobile app.

Strategies for Successful Telehealth Integration

Expanding access to behavioral health services via telehealth involves more than just implementing technology. Organizations must employ strategies to successfully integrate virtual care.

Thoughtful Technology Selection

The first key strategy is selecting user-friendly, HIPAA-compliant telehealth technologies. Prioritize platforms that both providers and patients can easily use. For patients, technology must facilitate clear communication without technical difficulties.

Change Management Planning

Any major change initiative like adopting telehealth requires change management planning. Get buy-in from providers and proactively address any adoption hurdles.

Strong IT Infrastructure

A robust IT infrastructure is crucial for supporting telehealth platforms. Assess network capacity, cybersecurity protocols, backup systems, and redundancies prior to implementation. Adequate IT support resources are also necessary.

Revised Policies and Processes

Existing policies, workflows, documentation, and other processes will need revisions to support telehealth. Update policies to define when telehealth can be used. Optimize workflows to facilitate virtual care delivery and documentation.

Ongoing Quality Monitoring

Continuously monitor the quality of care delivered via telehealth. Compare quality metrics like patient satisfaction, outcomes, and service utilization for virtual visits vs. in-person care. Monitoring enables ongoing optimization of telehealth implementation.


With thoughtful strategies for implementation, technology selection, and change management, telehealth can successfully deliver quality behavioral healthcare to more patients. While some services still require an in-person element, telehealth is here to stay as a way to supplement and expand access.