Caitlin Clement|9/14/2023|4 min read

Meeting the Mental Health Demand with Locum Tenens

How outsourcing provider staffing leads to better mental health outcomes

The mental and behavioral health industry has been one of the most successful telemedicine adopters since its launch into the virtual health space at the start of the pandemic. Telehealth allows providers to reach more patients in need of mental health help, see into their everyday lives and remove barriers to care for quicker diagnosis and treatment. 

Fast forward to today, and we are still faced with a mental health provider shortage due to an increase in industry demand and the normalizing of stigmas surrounding mental health. While the increasing trend of patients seeking out mental health help is positive, mental and behavioral specialists don’t have the resources to keep up. This is where third-party provider networks come in handy. 

What is the leading mental health issue?

Roughly 1 in 8 people suffer from a mental health disorder in the world. Since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, depression and anxiety have been at an all time high. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 4% of the world’s population has depression. When you do the math, that's 320 million people dealing with depression and/or anxiety. The entire United States population alone was at 331.9 million in 2021. 

Thankfully, the states, payers and health systems are seeing the writing on the wall when it comes to telepsychiatry and patient outcomes. Most states have permanently extended telehealth coverage through Medicaid for mental and behavioral health care—removing financial barriers as well. However, finding and hiring the right providers can be time consuming for your team. Luckily, there are pre-vetted, high quality clinicians you can tap into via locum tenens. 

1. Access to a broader, more specialized talent pool

One of the primary advantages of outsourcing your provider staffing services is access to a vast and diverse talent pool. Hiring full-time providers takes an in-house recruitment team and can be expensive for smaller or rural health facilities. Also, hiring talent is what these third-party companies specialize in, which means higher quality clinicians and more time back with your patients. 

With locum tenens, you can tap into a network of experienced mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and social workers, who are ready to step in and provide much-needed support at a moment's notice. 

This ability to outsource providers and quickly connect healthcare facilities with mental health professionals ensures that patients receive specialized care tailored to their unique needs—building better patient outcomes.

2. Rapid response to fluctuating mental health demand

The demand for mental health services can vary significantly over time. Some periods may see a sudden surge in demand, such as during crises or natural disasters like the recent pandemic, while others may experience more routine fluctuations. Outsourcing provider staffing services offers healthcare facilities the flexibility to adapt to these changes in demand seamlessly.

For example, natural disasters like hurricane Idalia bring unpredicted mental health (and other health) needs almost overnight. With little time to prepare and hire the necessary in-house staff to care for the increase in patients, hospitals and health facilities find themselves overflowed and resource depleted. 

By having physician staffing services ready and integrated into your service lines and revenue cycle—hospitals, health systems and provider practices are able to better navigate, hire and plan for fluctuating periods of high mental health demand. Telehealth and remote clinicians are a great triaging resource for areas or facilities that are seeing a high patient volume. It allows the in-house staff to focus on the higher-risk patients first while still making sure every patient is being seen.

Conversely, during slower periods, healthcare facilities can scale back their staffing levels, optimizing resource allocation and cost-efficiency.

3. Access to behavioral and mental health specialists

The shortage of mental health professionals is a well-documented challenge in the healthcare industry. We’ve all felt its effects both as a healthcare professional and as patients ourselves. Outsourcing provider staffing services can alleviate this shortage by connecting facilities with mental health professionals on a temporary or part-time basis.

For example, locum tenens psychiatrists and therapists can fill staffing gaps during peak demand periods or when permanent staff members are on leave. This ensures that patients continue to receive uninterrupted care and reduces the burden on overworked healthcare professionals. The key to better health outcomes and patient experiences is ensuring the right care is available to patients when they need it—this is what telehealth supports. 

4. Quality providers and credentialing assurance

We’ve all had to experience the credentialing process in some way or other, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s had a seamless experience with it. Credentialing providers is an extremely important process, but it can be a timely one too.

Third-party provider staffing companies often have rigorous credentialing processes and expert teams in place to ensure that the professionals they deploy meet the highest standards of quality and competence. This means that healthcare facilities can have confidence in the qualifications and expertise of the staff they receive through outsourcing providers.

Of course, it’s important to do your research before you hire a third-party provider too. Not all are going to be made equal and some may meet your provider needs better than others. It’s always a good idea to ask about their licensing and credentialing requirements, what provider they have on staff and if they’re NCQA accredited. 

Additionally, remote providers often maintain ongoing relationships with the professionals in their network, monitoring their performance and addressing any issues promptly. This commitment to quality assurance helps healthcare facilities maintain high standards of care, even when utilizing temporary staff.

5. Focus on core operations

By outsourcing provider staffing services for mental health, healthcare facilities can redirect their focus and resources to their core operations, such as patient care and facility management. Handling staffing, recruitment and credentialing processes internally can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

Offloading these functions allows healthcare leaders to concentrate on optimizing patient care, improving facilities and developing strategic initiatives to better address the mental health crisis. It also enables facilities to be more agile in responding to evolving healthcare needs.

6. Cost-efficiency

Outsourcing remote physician staffing services can provide cost-efficiency benefits for healthcare facilities. These services often have established networks and contracts with mental health professionals, which can lead to cost savings compared to recruiting and hiring permanent staff.

Many of the costs associated with in-house or brick-and-mortar physicians can be allocated toward other critical areas of operations and relieve administrative burden. Remote mental health clinicians can also prove cost-efficient for patients and payers alike too. Patients see reduced costs in visits and ancillary costs like transportation or childcare. Payers benefit from the preventative care role remote providers play and can see reduced reimbursement rates for high-cost acute care needs. 

Powering virtual mental and behavioral health

Mental and behavioral healthcare companies can benefit significantly from the use of telehealth to service their patients. The innovative technology and remote clinicians make it easier than ever for patients to seek treatment during a time of worsening mental health.

Speaking of innovative healthcare, we’d like to take a moment to introduce OpenLoop! Our carefully curated provider network is NCQA accredited and covered by 600+ insurance plans including Medicare, Medicaid and every major payer. 

You’ll be able to hire providers with confidence knowing each one is carefully credentialed and vetted by our team of experts. With nationwide licensure, 30+ specialities and over 15 languages spoken, we help our clients easily fill their patient demand. 

Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here!

Our full suite of white-labeled Telehealth Support Services include: