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Tele-Behavioral Health: You Have Questions, We Have Answers

Virtual visits have changed the way people receive behavioral health treatment

Tele-Behavioral Health

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way health care is delivered. More than two years in, virtual appointments are still popular and allow people of all ages to receive care without the need for travel.

One specialty that has embraced telemedicine is behavioral health, which is the area of medicine that supports emotional well-being.

“Over the last two years, Lehigh Valley Health Network has seen a large increase in virtual behavioral health visits. In 2020 alone, nearly 60 percent of our outpatient appointments were done virtually,” says Edward Norris, MD, Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN).“Many research studies have shown that virtual behavioral health appointments are equivalent to face-to-face visits, and they reduce the barriers to accessing behavioral health clinicians.”

To encourage people to look into this convenient option, Norris and Rory Marraccini, MD, Vice Chair, Psychiatry, Lehigh Valley Hospital(LVH)–Cedar Crest, have answered some of the most common questions they’ve heard about virtual behavioral health (also known as tele-behavioral health) below:

Q: Do insurance plans cover tele-behavioral health appointments?

A: Since the start of the pandemic, many insurance plans have started to cover virtual appointments and services, and this is likely to continue. However, to confirm your coverage and what you may be expected to pay out-of-pocket, it’s best to contact your insurance company before your first virtual visit.

Q: Are tele-behavioral health appointments less personal than in-person appointments?

A: While this is a common concern among people considering virtual appointments, Marraccini says that most patients don’t feel that their connection to their provider is any different. In fact, some have found that the virtual format enhances their care.

“Some of my patients actually feel that they can connect with me better than if we were in person for their appointments,” Marraccini says. “Being in the same room as someone else and discussing difficult subjects can cause a lot of anxiety. In a virtual format, they’re in their own familiar space. That provides an extra veil of comfort.”

Q: Are tele-behavioral health appointments an option for me if I’m bad with technology?

A: People of all ages with a variety of experience with technology have opted for virtual appointments. If you experience any trouble logging in to your appointment, your provider’s office will be happy to offer technical support.

Q: How can I make the most of my virtual behavioral health appointment?

A: Norris and Marraccini offer the following tips:

  • Take your appointment in a quiet, well-lit space away from distractions and other people.
  • If possible, avoid taking your appointment in a parked car. Wi-Fi connection is often a lot better in a house or office.
  • Sign in to your first appointment five to 10 minutes early to work through any technological issues you may experience.

Virtual behavioral health at LVHN

For more than 50 years, LVHN has been committed to caring for people who need behavioral health treatment, and now, all our providers and therapists offer virtual appointments.

Learn more

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