Learn how to evaluate behavioral health jobs in telehealth and the nuances that matter when vetting new virtual care opportunities in teletherapy and telepsychiatry.
Telehealth has become a vital healthcare access point for people all over the world. The pandemic left people confined to their homes with limited access to medical treatment, and the psychosocial impact has created an increased demand for mental health services.
According to a study conducted by Cigna, 97% of people that accessed behavioral health services during the initial stay-at-home orders (March to May 2020) didn’t have a behavioral telehealth claim prior to lockdown.
Thanks to advancements in technology and overall availability, more patients and clinicians are leveraging virtual care to provide and receive mental health treatment. Before the pandemic, virtual visits made up just over 1% of all clinical office visits that could be conducted virtually. Today, they make up nearly 25%.
Beyond convenience, one source of the adoption spike may be due to the privacy and comfort afforded via at-home behavioral health services. Virtual care increases accessibility to a broader set of people and can decrease the stigma associated with mental health care.
Outlook for jobs in telebehavioral health
Even with a post-pandemic world in sight, digital health adoption is not expected to slow anytime soon. Companies specializing in virtual care are seeing a significant boost in venture funding and experts say the U.S. telehealth industry is forecasted to grow 30% annually over the next five years. This is great news for behavioral health professionals looking to supplement their income or schedule with virtual care or even work in telehealth full time.
While many mental health specialists have moved at least part of their private practices online, working with a telehealth company is a new avenue for many psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists. Understanding how the opportunities and working structure are different, in addition to the new technologies and regulations to get comfortable with, will give you the confidence to take the first step toward finding a position that’s right for you.
Below, you’ll find a guide on how to evaluate telehealth jobs in behavioral health so you can begin a successful career in virtual care.
Working in telepsychiatry, teletherapy, and telemental health
Telehealth (referred to as telemental health, teletherapy, or telepsychiatry in behavioral health) refers to the use of technology such as phones, email, online chat, or video conferencing to deliver remote psychological or psychiatric care.
Who can work in telebehavioral health?
With the current shortage of mental health professionals, telehealth companies are seeking behavioral health clinicians in nearly all specialties.
Virtual mental health roles in high demand:
Typically, clinicians need to be board-eligible or board-certified and must meet the requirements for both the state and the employer for the given role in order to provide virtual care.
What are the benefits of working in virtual behavioral healthcare?
Telehealth holds a host of benefits for behavioral health specialists that ultimately can result in more interesting work, greater control over your schedule, and a better quality of life.
Augment your schedule and cut back hours in brick and mortar facilities without sacrificing financial gains
See more patients in a diversity of clinical settings without geographic limitations
Facilitate access to behavioral health care for underserved populations across the country
Provide clients with privacy, via a comfortable way to access critical mental health services
Make your own schedule, across time zones and during the days and times that work for you
Whether you want to grow your client roster, gain freedom and flexibility in your schedule, or increase your income, working in telebehavioral health may be a good option for you.
Where to start your virtual mental health job search
There are a few online destinations where you can start scoping out the best options for telehealth jobs in behavioral health.
Digital health companies often post available positions on job posting sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. The American Psychiatric Association’s JobCentral also posts job listings.
Remote behavioral health job postings will typically provide:
General details about the position
A company description including what patient types and treatment areas they serve
State and license requirements
Hours of operation and shift requirements
Modalities (synchronous and/or asynchronous)
Compensation details (hourly rate or rate per visit)
With Wheel, you can apply to join our psychotherapy or psychiatric team, and with just one credentialing effort, get access to work opportunities across multiple virtual care partners aligned with your experience and interests.
15 criteria for evaluating virtual behavioral health jobs
1. How do telebehavioral health companies work?
When evaluating a new opportunity in telehealth, do your research to get familiar with how the company works and to see if its values align with yours.
For example, if you are looking to grow your skills with a diverse patient population, look for a company that specializes in a variety of mental health treatment areas.
If the company provides regional or nationwide care, ensure they adhere to state-by-state practice regulations and that they understand the nuances of professional requirements across states.
You should also evaluate the company’s clinical decision-making framework. Ensure there is a defined process and protocols for risk management, medication administration, and documentation requirements, and check to be sure these were developed with clinical input and oversight.
Clinician testimonials are also helpful to illustrate what your experience may be like, and knowing the company’s clinician retention rate (or turnover rate) can provide insight into whether the care team is happy.
Closely vetting potential telehealth companies can prevent you from getting into a questionable working relationship and helps protect your licensure.
2. What are the shift requirements for remote mental health opportunities?
Many behavioral health clinicians have already transitioned at least some of their private practice visits to the virtual setting. Look at the shift requirements for the opportunity you’re evaluating to determine if it complements or interferes with your existing schedule. Some companies will require a minimum level of availability each week or each month. You also may need to provide your schedule several weeks in advance for scheduling purposes.
Check out the company’s hours of operation and any minimum hour requirements that would prevent you from fulfilling the obligations of the position.
Virtual care companies may also require clinicians to adhere to a certain amount of buffer time before visits. Determine how much notice you will receive before needing to commit to a last-minute appointment.
3. What are service level agreements in virtual behavioral health?
In addition to shift requirements, you will want to evaluate the company’s Service Level Agreements or SLAs.
SLAs act to provide a clear and measurable description of the service responsibility you are accountable for while working with a virtual behavioral health client.
Will clients have access to you outside of scheduled sessions? And are these interactions compensated?
These agreements also determine how much time you have to complete visit notes, whether you are compensated for cancelations and in what time window, and how much notice you will receive for same-day appointments. Depending on the organization, appointments could be scheduled one week in advance or potentially a several hours before a visit if there’s an available gap in your schedule.
This information is critical to managing competing obligations and to avoid surprises when appointments are suddenly scheduled or clients reach out between visits.
4. What is the compensation structure in telebehavioral health?
The pay structure in telemental health varies. Some companies pay per visit while others pay an hourly rate. Make sure this is clear before you get started so you know when and how you will be compensated.
Based on the nature of the position and your experience, choose a virtual behavioral health position that offers the best pay structure for your needs.
For example, sometimes there is inherent back and forth communication with administration, but you won’t want to engage in a loose or open-ended clinical engagement. Ensure the compensation structure is clear and defined by the telebehavioral health company before getting started.
5. What is the telemental health company’s clinician utilization rate?
A telehealth company’s client volume will determine how many sessions you can expect to complete per week, month, or shift.
This is also a good indicator of business health. Strong patient volumes mean you will be able to consistently schedule appointments and maximize your income each month.
6. What is the client population and what are the treatment areas?
Companies providing telebehavioral health services can be niche or broad in terms of mental health treatment areas. For example, a clinician working with a virtual mental health company that has a veteran patient population could expect to primarily deliver care for PTSD and depression.
Also pay attention to the acuity level offered, such as low acuity or outpatient care.
When evaluating virtual behavioral health work opportunities, be cognizant of the patient types the company serves and whether or not the treatment areas are within your scope of practice.
7. How much discretion do clinicians have over their virtual care practice?
Digital health companies provide varying degrees of control over a clinician’s independent decision-making and clinical practice.
For example, there may be a predetermined number of visits each client can schedule within a specific protocol or criteria for treatment. Other organizations may have a more laissez-faire approach, allowing clinicians to determine the frequency and duration of care for clients.
Be sure to evaluate expectations and understand how much of your practice is regulated by the company.
8. What are the care modalities in virtual behavioral health?
Often, virtual care opportunities are described as being either synchronous or asynchronous. This answers the question of whether your communication with clients will be video- or message-based, or both.
Synchronous telemedicine involves real-time audiovisual communication between the clinician and the patient — commonly through live video sessions over a secure platform.
Asynchronous telemedicine, also referred to as “store-and-forward” communication, means that patient information or medical data is transmitted to the mental health specialist to review, make a diagnosis, and respond at their convenience. This can include medication refill authorizations or administration of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. This modality of psychotherapy is being utilized more often to address a wide variety of mild-to-moderate clinical circumstances, such as smoking cessation programs.
Find out the exact nature of care you’ll be providing as some telemental health companies require both asynchronous and synchronous availability.
9. Is the telehealth platform easy to use for behavioral health?
Telehealth companies provide the software clinicians and clients use to provide and receive virtual care. Get to know the “virtual office” by scheduling a tour of the platform. This way you can see how it supports scheduling, video sessions, asynchronous care and/or client messaging, EHRs, e-prescriptions, and more.
Is this platform something you would be confident navigating? Was it built with behavioral health clinicians and clients in mind?
It’s important to understand the clinical workflow and the tools you will be using while providing virtual behavioral health care with a given company, as these are all things you will need to be comfortable using.
Learn what medical practice management software, electronic health records, and billing systems the telehealth platform integrates with and get to know how patients interact with the platform. It’s helpful to see the whole picture of how care is facilitated end-to-end from a client’s perspective.
Does the company offer adequate tech support in case you run into any issues? Having adequate support resources is essential for situations where you may encounter technical problems or patient care escalation issues. Determine the hours of availability, channels of communication, and protocol for submitting technical or clinical issues while working with the company.
10. How is the telehealth company leveraging temporary practice waivers?
It’s a lot of work to stay abreast of the latest clinical practice guidelines, let alone the rapidly evolving state-by-state laws and regulations governing virtual mental health care. Unfortunately, some providers have found themselves in precarious positions thanks to companies that were either ignorant of the relevant regulations, or overtly ignored them.
Find out about the company’s adherence to state-by-state COVID statutes, how the service provider is leveraging them, and how that may affect your license. It’s important to understand how health care provider waivers are being used so if you’re matched with a client out of the state you’re licensed in, you can be sure care will be compliant with current regulations.
11. What insurance and legal protections do teletherapy and telepsychiatry companies offer?
When evaluating a new remote behavioral health job, it’s important to weigh the company’s legal protections and regulatory adherence to ensure the business will act in the best interest of your license at all times.
Important legal issues to be aware of in teletherapy and telepsychiatry:
At a minimum, the company should offer some level of professional liability protection in the form of medical malpractice coverage that covers the full scope of each virtual care visit. Some states require insurance to cover a specific amount of damages.
ALWAYS operate within your scope of practice.
Uphold the same standard of care that you would in an in-person setting.
Ensure your clinical judgment is paramount. Even if clinical protocols are provided, at the end of the day, it’s your license and you should have the final clinical say.
12. How does e-prescribing work in telepsychiatry?
An essential part of telepsychiatry involves e-prescribing and medication management, ordering lab testing, and communicating those results to patients.
Protocols established by telehealth companies dictate what lab test you can order and what medications you can prescribe. Mandates vary from state to state regarding e-prescribing medications such as controlled substances, so understand how the company ensures mental health providers comply with these regulations.
13. Where does the company stand on behavioral health regulatory adherence and HIPAA compliance?
To protect your license, you must verify the business is HIPAA compliant across all its technology components and clinical protocols.
The best remote mental health companies conduct risk assessments, so learn if the company in question performs these regularly. It may also be beneficial to ask if the company has experienced a breach in compliance, the details of the event, and how the issue was addressed.
14. What are the onboarding and training requirements for remote behavioral health jobs?
In virtual care, there is a premium on well-supported, streamlined clinician training and clinical resources.
Completing training for a new teletherapy or telepsychiatry position is helpful to set yourself up for success, but can take a significant amount of time. When joining a virtual care company, be aware of the upfront commitment that is required and whether or not you will be compensated for your invested hours.
15. What are the license requirements for behavioral telemedicine?
Virtual care positions normally require behavioral health providers to hold a specific license. The job posting should outline what the minimum licensure requirements are for employment including how many state licenses are needed to achieve a reasonable appointment volume.
Obtaining additional licenses and credentials may open more options for you to provide virtual care.
Access virtual behavioral health opportunities with Wheel
Choosing the right organization to work with in virtual care is a critical step to ensuring your license, and livelihood, are protected. At Wheel, we meticulously select our virtual behavioral health care partners, vetting them to the highest clinical, legal, safety, and regulatory standards. That means our behavioral health clinicians get access to the best opportunities in virtual mental health care, without having to independently evaluate each new opportunity for quality, safety, and regulatory adherence.