U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Woman sitting on chair using tablet with a doctor on the screen. Three bubbles appear in front of her with three heads. One has a jumble of lines on it, the other has puzzle pieces, and the last one has an umbrella blocking rain.

Telehealth for behavioral health care

Developing a telebehavioral health strategy

Once you have decided that virtual behavioral health care makes sense for your practice, the next step is to create a strategic plan for how to start your Telebehavioral health service (video).

Creating a telehealth plan

You must make practical business decisions and think ahead to ensure long-term stability and success (video). You will need to:

  • Create a roadmap for when and how you will roll out new services. Review your process for managing appointments and adapt your workflow to telehealth appointments. Need ideas? See Digital Health Implementation Playbook Step 7: Designing the Workflow (PDF) and Provider to Patient Visits template workflows for ideas.
  • Find funding to cover both short- and long-term costs for insurance reimbursement delays. (Before starting a telebehavioral health program, be sure you also understand billing and reimbursement rules and timelines.) See: National TRC Webinar: The 411 on Telehealth Funding (video) for tips on how to get started.
  • Assess patient needs and research the most needed behavioral health services in your area. Confirm if broadband internet is available in your community.
  • Develop a marketing strategy. Update your website, advertising (online, radio, and print), email communications, and more. Help stop the stigma around behavioral health services by showing the importance of behavioral health care in your materials. Describe how your practice can make it easy for patients to access this type of care.
  • Start small — introduce one new service at a time. Test new services with staff, or pilot a program with a small number of patients. After you are comfortable with the basics of behavioral telehealth and the finances, it will be easier to grow your services.
  • Design your approach to hiring, staff training, workflows, infrastructure and IT needs, and patient communication.

Tip: Ask patients about their technology skills and communication preferences ahead of the virtual visit. Your administrative staff can prepare patients for their telehealth appointment with instructions on what to expect and on the importance of finding a private area for the telehealth visit. Schedule extra time for patients to practice using the technology and to ask questions.

Evaluating your telebehavioral health program

  • After you’ve developed your telehealth plan, you will want to ensure your program is meeting its goals by measuring patient and business impact, as well as understanding the challenges, and areas for growth to ensure your program is sustainable over time. Monitor your services regularly and adjust as needed.

Read more about planning and strategy for telebehavioral health: