Virtual Visits for Better Mental Health

No stress virtual visits allow patients to connect with providers on their screens.

If you suffer with anxiety, depression or addiction, you probably know the benefits that talking with a licensed therapist or mental health professional can bring. You probably also know that, even with insurance, mental health visits can come with long waits and high co-pays.

It’s easy to put off getting help from a professional. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, almost half of Americans see cost and poor insurance coverage as the top barriers to accessing mental health care.

In Marion County, even people with health insurance say it takes some time to find an in-network provider, hopefully in a convenient location, who is accepting new patients. Then, many have to wait weeks for an appointment.

Over the past year, an increasing number of insurance plans have added a telehealth option and a growing number of people are finding it a quicker and more convenient way to connect to medical care while staying out of the waiting room.

Ocala-based SimplerPsych offers mental health care to patients across Central Florida and beyond. CEO Dr. Donald J. Baracskay explains that talking with a clinician via a video call on your phone, tablet or computer gives you the same face-to-face experience you’d get in the office.

“As the patient, you are sitting in front of our provider talking about what you need,” he asserts. “And you and the provider are coming up with a treatment solution.”

Baracskay explains that a virtual visit eliminates the drive time and waiting time of an in-person visit.

“Being able to see the doctor from my smartphone at home makes things so much more convenient,” says one patient, who lives 45 minutes away from the doctor’s office. “It would otherwise be two to three hours out of my day.”

Many SimplerPsych patients, Baracskay explains, access the service during a break at work so they don’t have to leave the office, especially if they just need a medication refill, a 10- or 15-minute mini therapy session or a 20-minute follow-up visit.

“You get your normal appointment, but instead of driving there it’s from the comfort of your home or wherever you are,” he continues. “You just go into an area where you can have the appointment using your phone. You talk to the provider and 20 minutes later no one’s the wiser. That’s the hidden value that I don’t think many people truly appreciate at this point.”

The affordable costs are the first thing many patients will notice, especially if they don’t have insurance or are self-insured with a high-deductible plan. SimplerPsych’s rates for individual therapy and follow-up psychiatrist appointments are lower than most insurance co-pays and are detailed on their website. That eliminates another source of stress for many people trying to figure out how to afford the mental health services they need.

“We price it in such a way that it works for a customer,” Baracskay asserts, “even if a person’s insurance doesn’t cover telehealth services.” He says if a patient has insurance, his team can help them figure out whether telehealth services are covered and can file insurance claims just as they would for an in-office visit.

Eliminating some of the stress that surrounds a therapy visit is helping some patients who wouldn’t otherwise seek treatment.

“I have anxiety, so much that I can’t even come to appointments in the office,” one patient admits. “The telehealth has allowed me to get the therapy I need from home.”

The purpose of SimplerPsych, Baracskay says, is to make mental health treatment more accessible to people who need it.

We spoke with a local woman whose husband has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and she was excited to learn about this option for him.

“We live way outside of town and he spends a lot of time alone. There are certain ‘triggers’ that can launch him into a place where he needs to be able to reach out for help,” she explains. “Even as a patient who has been under care for some time, it is very rare that he can call the doctor’s office and get an emergency appointment while he is in a state of crisis, or, sometimes, even a call back the same day. The telehealth option gives me hope that he might receive a quicker response following an episode that just comes, seemingly, out of nowhere.”

“Our world is a very chaotic and a very hectic world,” Baracskay states. “To the extent that you can find something that solves the convenience problem, that’s a good thing. It’s a simple way to remove every barrier to care for the client.”

He explains you “don’t need any special equipment—or an IT guy” to use their service. You either access the SimplerPsych website on your computer or download the app to your iPhone, Android or tablet, and you can get started with just a few clicks. Most times, patients are able to request and receive an appointment the same day or the next day.

“At this point in time, I would not expect people to be waiting with a telehealth service for very long,” Baracskay says. He explains the process like this: “If somebody uses a smartphone, computer or tablet they can enter the waiting area, our staff interact with the person, and then we can rather rapidly provide them with an appointment time.”

Virtual visits are confidential and HIPAA-compliant, just like in-person healthcare services, and SimplerPsych’s software is encrypted for security. 

For more information, visit www.simplerpsych.com

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