The Modern Guide to Behavioral Health Consulting

Why is behavioral health consulting important?

If you’re reading this, you probably know about the mental health crisis happening in America right now. According to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report, almost 20% of adults in America experienced a behavioral health illness in 2019, and over 50% of our affected population had their behavioral health condition go completely untreated. 

The responsibility of treating patients falls squarely on the shoulders of nurses, behavioral health professionals, hospital executives and the local community.

Coming out of the pandemic, it’s easy to see why some hospitals have put behavioral health management on the back burner. But why exactly is that?

  • Behavioral health patients tend to present themselves in the emergency department (ED), and it’s easier to administer treatment that way without a dedicated program.
  • There is a massive shortage of healthcare workers. Providers are reporting a 25% decrease in staff availability in some cases.
  • Behavioral health billing is very complicated, and there is a lack of training on the appropriate billing codes for behavioral health.

You might be thinking to yourself: “OK, great. We know we need better behavioral health management strategies for our patients, but how can this work for our hospital?”

That’s why behavioral health consulting is so important. Behavioral health consulting can help your hospital provide better care while:

  • Lowering the number of patients your team refers out to competing hospitals
  • Protecting your staff and the safety of your non-mental health patients
  • Delivering on more of the patient journey
  • Opening up a new revenue stream for the hospital

See how you rank compared to other behavioral health programs in your area.

What are the different types of behavioral health programs eligible for hospitals in 2022?

Ultimately, based on your behavioral health management program, you will find a consulting offering that matches. Some of the more common examples of behavioral health management programs at hospitals include:

  • Child adolescent inpatient
    • Behavioral health consulting for a child adolescent program helps your hospital cater to the under-18 population in your community.
  • Adult inpatient
    • Adult inpatient behavioral health programs vary from hospital to hospital, but a general age range is 18 to 55.
  • Geriatric inpatient
    • Much like adult inpatient, geriatric programs can vary as well, but they tend to serve populations 55 and above.
  • Outpatient partial hospitalization
    • Partial hospitalization programs are the initial step down programs in a patient’s continuum of care following inpatient care.
  • Intensive outpatient
    • Another option following inpatient care in a patient’s journey.
  • Outpatient
    • Outpatient behavioral health programs create an ongoing path to recovery outside of the hospital.
  • Medical detox
    • A short stay at the hospital for a patient (usually 3-5 days max) that allows them to recover with clinical oversight.
  • Substance abuse
    • Moves medical detox patients to another level of care to avoid the revolving door in the emergency department (ED) / medical detox unit.

Since each of these behavioral health programs requires different strategies for behavioral health billing, coding, staff training, staffing and hospital facility planning, the consulting your hospital receives has to match.

If you’ve identified your program type, and think there is an opportunity to improve your hospital’s behavioral health management strategy, you might be interested in learning about the different types of problems that behavioral health consulting can solve.

What problems do behavioral health consulting solve?

Healthcare professionals like you know that behavioral health is a huge problem in our country, but with all of the issues a hospital faces on an everyday basis, it’s easy to see how an updated behavioral health management strategy could fall down the priority list.

CFOs, COOs, CNOs and directors of nursing should probably re-examine their behavioral health strategy because behavioral health consulting can solve the following problems for them:

  • Lack of operational expertise in behavioral health
  • Zero or minimal outcomes measurement / benchmarking
    • You spend energy, time and resources to address the behavioral health needs in your community — how do you know if your treatment plans incorporate standardized assessment tools to measure patient outcomes? Outcomes measurement is a natural way to answer these questions.
  • Inaccurate behavioral health billing and coding / inadequate reimbursement
    • Inadequate reimbursement is a hot topic in the behavioral health world and for good reason. If your hospital is not coding services correctly, you are missing out revenue generating opportunities that can improve the hospital’s bottom line. You can learn more about behavioral health finance consulting here.
  • Reputation improvement and referral development
    • How do you know which referral partners refer the right patients to your behavioral health program? Are you turning referrals away frequently? Getting this wrong can hurt your hospital’s growth prospects and can limit your ability to improve the hospital’s reputation within your community.

Behavioral health consulting can also help you:

  • Avoid regulatory mishaps
  • Receive guidance on specialty programs such as substance use disorder or medical detox
  • Improve financial contributions of the behavioral health program
  • Ensure that clinical resources enable your staff to provide a high level of care

For guidance on starting a new behavioral health program, or for an expert second opinion on your existing program, you can always try our assessment questions here and here

Let’s Get to Work, Together

Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.