Question: Who can use the services of PATHS?
Answer: Providers in Alabama’s rural counties who have signed a formal Participation Agreement with PATHS can utilize the services. All PATHS services, including the PATHS consultation line (205-638-PATH) are open to any enrolled provider, i.e. MD, DO, and their clinical staff.
Question: Is there a cost to providers for using PATHS services?
Answer: No, there is no cost to primary care providers for utilizing the services of PATHS. PATHS is supported through a contractual agreement between Children’s of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Mental Health. The Department of Mental Health was awarded a HRSA grant in 2018, and this grant supports the work of PATHS with at least 20% funded by non-governmental funds, as well. Children’s currently provides the 20% of non-governmental funds.
Question: My practice already has a procedure in place to refer patients to local mental health providers. Why would I need the services that PATHS provides?
Answer: We are glad that you have a procedure in place for making referrals for behavioral health care services when needed. We in no way want to interfere with those processes. However, many of Alabama’s rural communities have a lack of pediatric behavioral health resources, particularly child/adolescent psychiatrists and therapists specializing in working with children/adolescents. PATHS is designed to help you become well-equipped to manage mild to moderate behavioral health needs for your patients, so that they can receive care in a setting where they already feel comfortable. In addition, many behavioral health providers, especially those serving children/adolescents, often have extensive wait times. Our PATHS psychiatrists can provide expert guidance on which psychiatric medications to prescribe, including dosing recommendations, as well as other treatment plan recommendations. PATHS can help fill the gap in care by providing expert consultation, support and training to enrolled providers and their staff.
Question: When I consult with a PATHS team member, do you send me something to put in the patient’s chart?
Answer: Please be aware that the PATHS clinician is not assuming the care of your patient or prescribing to that patient when you seek a consultation with one of our team members. The call is a conversation between two clinicians, and does not constitute the establishment of a patient relationship between the PATHS provider and your patient. As such, we do not provide documentation for your patient record. We do however, recommend that you document the conversation with our team member in your patient’s record and any treatment you provided. You are still responsible for the medications that you choose to prescribe, based upon the recommendations given during the phone case consultation, as well as any other treatment plan changes. Providers are free to consult with PATHS as many times as needed regarding a given patient.
Question: Who is responsible for getting consent from my patient for me to consult with PATHS? Is an authorization to disclose information required?
Answer: PATHS activities are covered under the treatment, payment and health care operations provisions of HIPAA. While we hope that you are discussing with your patient and/or their parents when you plan to consult with PATHS, a release is not required for this purpose, unless you are disclosing information related to substance abuse issues. If your patient has substance abuse issues, Title 42 CFR requires that Authorization be signed for this information to be disclosed. You can download a blank Authorization Form here.
Question: Is any form of consent required for a patient to be seen via telemedicine?
Answer: Yes. In many ways, telemedicine appointments are very similar to in-person appointments. Prior to your patient’s first telemedicine appointment, our Care Coordinator will work with your patient’s parent/guardian to have them complete all Children’s new patient documents, including our Consent for Treatment, Telemedicine Consent and others. Our Care Coordinator will confirm with your staff when all documents have been completed by the parent/guardian and received by our team, and the appointment has been scheduled.
Question: What information will PATHS need when I call to seek consultation regarding one of my patients?
Answer: To best serve you and your patients, our Care Coordinator will ask you for some basic clinical information when calling for consultation. This will help us determine which team member is clinically most appropriate to respond to your questions, and will facilitate that interaction much more efficiently and effectively. Some of this information is also necessary for PATHS to meet reporting requirements for HRSA. The following is the information that our Care Coordinator will ask for:
Depending on the particular question that you have, our Care Coordinator will either respond to your question during the initial call, or if another member of our team is more appropriate to answer your questions, our Care Coordinator will route your request to another member of our team who will return your call within 24 hours, but generally the same day.
Question: How can a patient in my practice be seen by a PATHS provider via telemedicine?
Answer: Remember that PATHS’ overall mission is to increase capacity for primary care providers in Alabama’s rural communities to diagnose, treat and manage mild to moderate behavioral health conditions in children and adolescents. There simply aren’t enough behavioral health providers in our state to meet current needs. However, we know that there are some conditions that primary care providers may not be equipped to manage.
This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $2.09 million with 20% financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.