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Combating The Psychiatrist Shortage Through Flexible Staffing Solutions

For years, the United States has been facing a significant shortage of physicians. While these needs span across specialties, the supply of psychiatrists has hit a critical low—a shortage that is only expected to worsen since three out of five practicing psychiatrists are over the age of 55. According to National Council for Behavioral Health, the demand may outstrip supply by 6,090 to 15,600 psychiatrists by 2025. For facilities that are already having a difficult time keeping up with hiring, these numbers make it clear that now is the time to explore new solutions for filling this void.

“Expanded coverage for mental health and substance abuse issues is only one factor that has led to a rise in demand for these services,” says Kyle Mattice, President of The Execu|Search Group’s Healthcare division. “The social stigmas associated with mental illness are diminishing, so more people are reaching out for help. This demand is already causing a backlog of patients at outpatient centers, behavioral health facilities, hospitals, and addiction centers across the United States. However, inner-city and rural areas are being hit particularly hard by this shortage.”

To mitigate the effects of this shortage and remain focused on providing high quality care, telemedicine and collaborative care are two solutions that facilities should consider in the coming years. Learn more about them below:

Telemedicine:

According to a 2016 Health Affairs report, there are zero psychiatrists in more than half of the counties in the United States. If you are a facility in one of these areas, telemedicine or telepsychiatry is one way to provide the care your patients are seeking. “Since these roles offer providers the flexibility to work from any location, telemedicine can be an extremely effective hiring strategy for facilities that cannot find local providers,” says Kyle. “Although treatment will take place over videoconferencing technology, the patient will receive the same level of care. This includes evaluations, medicine management, and ongoing therapy.”

Collaborative Care:

As facilities continue to struggle with their physician to patient ratios, a collaborative care model will be key when addressing mental health. “The only way to keep facilities running smoothly and ensure continued quality will be to build a steady support team,” advises Kyle. “In this care model, the psychiatrist will work in an advisory capacity for primary care providers such as family physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and social workers. While the psychiatrist will oversee cases, consult on treatment plans, and see the most challenging patients, the primary care clinicians will be responsible for implementing the care plan.”

In areas where behavioral health is a scare resource, telemedicine and collaborative care are powerful ways to deliver consistent care to patient populations who would normally have to wait months to see a provider. “Whether the consulting psychiatrist splits their time between multiple clinics and/or works in a telepsych capacity, these flexible solutions are allowing organizations to be more sophisticated when addressing mental health,” says Kyle. “As the demand for this care grows, we’re only going to see a greater push from our clients for mental health professionals. These solutions can help ease the burden.”