The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) https://www.ncdhhs.gov recently submitted their “Behavioral Health Strategic Plan” to the North Carolina General Assembly. The plan provides the vision for the future of the state’s behavioral health system.
Looking ahead, the plan calls for further work and investment in building community capacity, integrating care, increasing and better utilizing the behavioral health workforce, and expanding the use of telemedicine.
The plans section titled “Increase Access to Telehealth and Telepsychiatry in Rural and Other Underserved Areas in Our State” stresses how telehealth and telepsychiatry will not address all access problems, but they are important tools to build capacity.
Recognizing the potential for telemedicine to increase access to care especially across rural areas of the state, North Carolina’s Medicaid program has covered telemedicine for almost 20 years.
The current policy reimburses a broad array of providers for services rendered via telemedicine at the same rates as for in-person visits when both beneficiaries and providers are located at Medicaid enrolled sites.
As the DHHS Medicaid program transitions to managed care, telemedicine can play a crucial role in increasing individual access to care, improving outcomes, and decreasing costs. These benefits are relevant in rural areas with physician shortages.
Under managed care, Prepaid Health Plans (PHP) will be encouraged to support the use of telemedicine as a tool for ensuring access to services. When an enrollee requires a medically necessary service not available within the PHP network, the PHP may provide access to the service via telemedicine with approval.
DHHS will also encourage PHPs to implement pilots to test additional telemedicine strategies and will invite PHPs to propose innovative pilots related to telemedicine in their responses to DHHS’ Medicaid managed care procurement.
DHHS has plans to work with PHPs, providers, and other stakeholders to further develop a comprehensive strategy related to telemedicine during the coming months. This strategy will look at the use of other types of telemedicine including smart home technology, assistive technologies to help aging and long-term support populations, use telemedicine to provide access to healthcare for underserved areas, and to help individuals with disabilities.
Go to https://www.ncdhhs.gov/news/press-releases/dhhs-releases-vision-future-behavioral-health to view the DHHS “Behavioral Health Strategic Plan”.