Young woman having behavioral health care video call on laptop computer at home

Overcoming Agency Barriers to Providing Remote Behavioral Health Care

Research Summary


Remote behavioral health care can work as well as, or better than, in-person behavioral health care. It can be high-quality, flexible, and accessible to those in rural areas or with limited transportation. Although research shows a majority of behavioral health care consumers are interested in receiving care remotely, there is limited understanding of agencies’ barriers to providing services remotely. This study identifies the primary obstacles agencies experience and provides suggestions for overcoming them.

Key Findings

  • Agency decisions around providing remote services primarily included:
    • Agency culture
    • Outside influences, like funding and regulations
    • Doubt about the interventions themselves
    • Concerns for end user access and ability
  • Barriers and concerns cited by agencies included:
    • Primary
      • Cost
      • Information security
      • Training
    • Secondary
      • Internet or mobile access
      • Equipment costs
      • Prior negative experiences with technology
    • Additional
      • Agency leadership buy-in
      • Implementation time
      • IT staffing
      • Consumer access
      • Billing
  • Agencies with bigger budgets and larger client bases showed higher rates of technology-based behavioral health care.
  • Agencies with higher operating budgets were least concerned about IT security problems.
  • Costs of equipment and maintenance were prohibitive in agencies serving fewer than 3000 consumers a year.
  • Rural agencies were ten times more concerned with consumer Internet access than other agencies.
  • Location and demographic characteristics of agency respondents made very little to no impact on perception of barriers.

Put It Into Practice


Tips and tools to help you apply best practices at work.

Use these suggestions to minimize and overcome agency barriers to providing remote behavioral health care as a service option:

  • Remain aware of potential barriers.
  • Build buy-in from administration and encourage leadership change, as they are crucial for success.
  • Emphasize to providers how remote service provision could allow them to work to their highest potential.
  • Develop protocols to ensure IT security for HIPAA-protected information.
  • Train personnel in proactive online privacy protection.
  • Factor ongoing training into plan to adopt remote behavioral health care.
  • Ensure that the tools chosen for service provision are a good fit for the values, attitudes, and culture of the agency.

More About This Research

Further research is required to more easily calculate return on investment of remote behavioral health care delivery. Since this study focused on decision makers in agencies, future research should include a broader range of clinical-level respondents. In addition, information about the various tools and how to use them may help encourage adoption.

Learn More

Ramsey, A., Lord, S., Torrey, J., Marsch, L., & Lardiere, M. (2016). Paving the Way to Successful Implementation: Identifying Key Barriers to Use of Technology-Based Therapeutic Tools for Behavioral Health Care. The journal of behavioral health services & research, 43(1), 54–70.