Telehealth company American Well has added psychiatry services to a subset of its behavioral health offering, with a larger rollout planned for the rest of the year. American Well has offered a behavioral health module to some of its customers since 2004, but is debuting some new features as well as the addition of psychiatrists, meaning many patients will be able to have mental health drugs prescribed over the platform.
“With telepsychiatry you’re seeing an MD, a medical doctor who has a specialization in psychiatry or psychology, so they’re able to prescribe your medication,” American Well’s Vice President of Behavioral Health, Dr. Zereana Jess-Huff, who started with the company a few months ago, told MobiHealthNews. “That’s the major difference. They also can do counseling, but they’re mainly there to do assessments and provide those medications that a lot of folks are seeking. There’s only one psychiatrist for every 30,000 Americans and in the next decade we’re expected to experience at least a 10 percent reduction, so the access issues we’re dealing with now are only going to get worse.”
At first, not all medications will be prescribable over the platform because of laws that govern the prescription of controlled substances, like certain stimulants and antidepressants, via telemedicine. But the company has plans to work with community sites like urgent care or pharmacy clinics to provide those prescriptions when needed. That will be up and running by the end of the year, Jess-Huff said.
For now, psychiatry will be available to direct-to-consumer AmWell users, but it will be added to employer and whitelabeled American Well products on a case-by-case basis. Recently-added American Well features enhance the company’s behavioral health offering, including multiway video that can facilitate group therapy and a care coordination network that enables American Well to efficiently allocate psychiatrists or other behavioral health professionals as appropriate.
“A psychiatrist could see one patient for a follow up, or they could staff cases with a primary care physician who could then see five to six patients,” Jess-Huff explained.
Behavioral health is the next great differentiation point for the telehealth market, and American Well competitor Teladoc has also been focusing in that area. Jess-Huff believes behavioral health is an area where telehealth can actually enhance the experience of care.
“Having to leave work early to try to make these appointments, having to transport yourself back and forth, all those things kind of prohibit people from engaging in [behavioral healthcare],” she said. “By using telehealth, we’re cutting down those barriers. We’re dealing with stigmatization by allowing private access to members. We’re really bringing more people to the table than we would have otherwise.”