For patients with behavioral health needs (including substance use and mental health disorders), barriers to onsite visits with behavioral health providers include location, cost, transportation, time, and stigma (1). Telehealth visits potentially can overcome many of these barriers, enabling increased access to and engagement with providers (1,2). The few studies of telehealth for patients with behavioral health needs such as harmful substance use found similar or more positive outcomes for telehealth versus onsite visits, including consistent engagement, patient satisfaction, and self-reported substance use (1,2). However, telehealth adoption in medical settings has been limited by several factors such as technology availability, patient and provider resistance, excessive cost, and lack of insurer reimbursement (3). In early 2020, disruptive transformations in health care due to the coronavirus pandemic included the rapid uptake and dissemination of telehealth approaches. Health systems, providers, and insurers implemented operational, technological, and payment shifts enabling telehealth (4). For several months, telehealth was the only option for most patients without emergent needs (5). The effects of this rapid adoption of telehealth on provider access, healthcare utilization and costs, and substance use and mental health are unknown. Also unknown are how patient differences such as geographic location, socioeconomic status, demographics, and behavioral health disorders affect utilization of virtual behavioral health care. Changes in behavioral health care delivery prompted by the pandemic have provided opportunities to increase access to behavioral health services and help to mitigate disparities in behavioral health care delivery. The purpose of this talk is to review Electronic Health Record data from three departments (Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Family Medicine) within an academic medical center to elucidate the impact of health disparities (as measured by patient geographic location, payer type, etc.) on engagement in virtual behavioral health care during the pandemic. 1. Flodgren G, Rachas A, Farmer AJ, Inzitari M, Shepperd S. Interactive telemedicine: effects on professional practice and health care outcomes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015;(9). 2. Lin L (Allison), Casteel D, Shigekawa E, Weyrich MS, Roby DH, McMenamin SB. Telemedicine-delivered treatment interventions for substance use disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2019;101:38-49. 3. Scott Kruse C, Karem P, Shifflett K, Vegi L, Ravi K, Brooks M. Evaluating barriers to adopting telemedicine worldwide: A systematic review. J Telemed Telecare. 2018;24(1):4-12. 4. Center for Connected Health Policy. About Telehealth | CCHP Website. Available at https://www.cchpca.org/about/about-telehealth. Accessed October 14, 2020. 5. McNeely J. How telemedicine may impact SBI and treatment for alcohol and drug use in primary care. P
- Determine whether health disparity factors affect access to virtual behavioral health visits with behavioral health providers during the pandemic.
- Compare and contrast departmental findings (Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Family Medicine) regarding virtual behavioral health care utilization.
- Apply findings to development and implementation of future studies on virtual behavioral health for diverse patient populations.