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Supporting behavioral health care providers during public health emergencies

December 16, 2022

Behavioral health care staff provides Telehealth Support for behavioral health care providers is crucial, especially considering the significant stress and burnout they have experienced prior to and during the pandemic. To understand how to better support behavioral health care providers during public health emergencies, this study explores three topics. 

Burnout 

While the literature is limited, studies suggests that burnout can affect physical and mental health for many professionals. Burnout is associated with provider absenteeism and turnover. Factors associated with burnout may include high work demands, role conflict, role ambiguity, and other organizational factors. Interventions to support behavioral health care providers address the issue through one of two strategies.
 
  1. Interventions addressing organizational factors, such as reducing workload and increasing job resources
  2. Interventions addressing individual factors, such as improving resilience and coping 
Providers interviewed in this study emphasized that common self-care interventions, such as meditation, sleep hygiene, and gratitude, were not effective in reducing chronic burnout for behavioral health providers. Many providers expressed a preference for organization-wide changes rather than interventions that address individual factors. 
 

Service delivery

Providers and patients report that the transition to telehealth has been largely positive. Both populations reported that telehealth has offered more flexibility. But providers expressed concern that virtual care delivery was not as effective as in-person care and that some therapies, services, and client populations may not be well suited for telehealth.

Health care providers need assistance to strengthen their capacity to deliver effective, evidence-based practices to individuals. 

Policy changes

Federal and state regulators, as well as public and private payers, made several adjustments to accommodate emerging needs in the healthcare landscape and support behavioral health care staff. For example: 

  • Every state issued some type of policy change to provide coverage parity for telehealth services during the pandemic 
  • Health insurers began to provide payment parity for telehealth services, allowing providers to bill health insurance companies for telehealth services at the same rate they would bill for in-person services.
  • Federal regulations temporarily relaxed to allow for the use of mainstream video conferencing software

But identifying new billing systems and codes can be challenging for providers. Additionally, at the time of this publication, policymakers have not expanded coverage for telehealth permanently. Therefore, behavioral health workers cannot guarantee their ability to provide care virtually.

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