Behavioral Health Services, LLC (BHS), the physician managed Missouri-based mental health support subsidiary of UpHealth Holdings Inc. (“UpHealth”) with affiliated psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, psychologists and other mental health professionals based out of four physical locations and over twenty area long term care settings, is initiating a psychiatric virtual health platform in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new platform not only allows BHS to continue its support of comprehensive, progressive and innovative services for its clients, but also provides a number of growth opportunities.
In early 2020, BHS’ affiliated providers saw an average of 7,000 patients per month in person at their offices, in care homes or in hospitals. None of these visits were virtual. However, in light of the numerous benefits associated with telehealth, BHS had been exploring plans to implement virtual telehealth options.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated these plans to offer virtual visits, and at this juncture, the vast majority of BHS affiliated provider-patient encounters are being conducted via telehealth platforms.
Over the course of less than a week in March 2020, the COVID crisis catalyzed the U.S. government’s Center for Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory authorities to allow telepsychiatry and telemedicine visits using platforms as simple as a voice-only phone call. Telemedicine was no longer restricted to those with access to complex video systems. Patients could be safely and quickly treated from their homes. Simultaneously, the dominant payors (Medicare, Medicaid, and a majority of private insurers) reversed their longstanding policies and decided to reimburse telemedicine/telepsychiatry visits as they would an in-person visit. Similarly, state regulatory authorities made similar COVID pandemic adjustments and streamlined licensure requirements. CMS and many states have signaled that the regulatory changes have allowed for vast improvements to patient care and are considering making the changes permanent. BHS affiliated providers pivoted from no telepsychiatry visits at the beginning of March 2020 to greater than 85% virtual visits within a month in response to this unprecedented event.
“Practitioners and patients rapidly adjusted to the minimized logistical hurdles and found a number of unexpected advantages to virtual medicine/psychiatry with patients seeing improved availability of appointment slots and clinicians experiencing an approximately 75% reduction in missed appointments,” said Azfar Malik, MD, MBA, DFAPA, President of BHS. “Since our providers no longer need to be office-based, they now have the option of treating their patients entirely virtually or in a hybrid office-virtual model if they wish. This emerging practice model will inherently reduce overhead while boosting patient and provider satisfaction.”
The merger with UpHealth allows BHS to collaborate with UpHealth’s Integrated Care Management and Global Telehealth Divisions to expand patient and payor access to mental health professionals. “Many parts of the U.S. have a shortage of access to mental health professionals. With the BHS-UpHealth merger, patients will no longer be constrained by concerns of proximity to providers’ offices in order to receive behavioral health services. UpHealth’s expansive suite of telehealth services will allow BHS to reach more patients, even in distant rural and urban settings,” said Dr. Ramesh Balakrishnan, Co-CEO of UpHealth.
BHS is currently exploring a growth strategy that includes developing relationships with providers outside of its historic service area to allow patients in historically underserved communities to benefit from this innovative behavioral health telehealth model.
The BHS-UpHealth merger will function to organically bridge gaps in care between physical and mental health in the U.S. “In our healthcare system, Primary care physicians neither have the training nor the time to assess behavioral health issues during a primary care visit. As a result, mental health has never been prioritized the same as physical health in the U.S.,” added Dr. Balakrishnan. “Now, with UpHealth’s Integrated Care Management Platform and Global Telehealth, patients far and near will have access to mental health services at the primary care level. This will help break down barriers to mental health services and truly integrate mental and physical health care, which so far have been treated separately by our healthcare system,” Dr. Balakrishnan concluded.
About Behavioral Health Services:
Behavioral Health Services, LLC is managed by mental health practitioners with a wealth of experience and expertise in treating psychiatric disorders and who are committed to integrating practice management with patient care. BHS is a holding company and through its various subsidiaries, offers a network of comprehensive, progressive, and innovative services for patients of all ages, including: psychiatry/medication management, psychotherapy/counseling, intensive outpatient program support, billing and collection services and research. Psych Care Consultants, L.L.C. (PCC) (based in St. Louis, MO) is the clinical subsidiary of BHS that, through its relationships with clinical providers, provides clinical behavioral health services including substance abuse and addiction services, counseling services, psychiatric services and medication management, psychological testing, child and adolescent services, and neurology both onsite and via telehealth. BHS’ capabilities have dramatically expanded use of telehealth for clinical services and are leveraging UpHealth’s platform to increase access to and growth of its services. Behavioral Health Services, LLC, is a mental health segment leader for UpHealth Holdings, Inc.’s Behavioral Health Division.
About UpHealth Holdings, Inc.:
UpHealth is a global comprehensive digital health technology and tech-enabled services platform (the “Platform”) that empowers providers, health systems and payors globally to manage care for people with complex medical, behavioral and social needs, while dramatically improving access to primary care.
For more information, visit www.UpHealthInc.com