Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Thought Leadership

Back to All
By ontrak
December 13, 2022

Access and Availability: How to effectively expand—and improve—your behavioral health network.

Jenifer True Donahue, Vice President, Provider Services and Operations, Ontrak Health.

Given the growing emphasis on behavioral healthcare, it’s no surprise we’re seeing more health plans invest in their behavioral health networks. Network expansion, however, is fraught with logistical hurdles and economic pitfalls. 

Consider for example that access doesn’t always translate into availability. Access refers to the relative number of in-network behavioral health providers. More providers mean more access. 

Availability, meanwhile, refers to the capacity of those providers to offer timely appointments. 

Because of the relative dearth of behavioral health providers who participate in insurance, and the sheer volume of members who require treatment, even larger provider networks may not give members the availability they need. Some members may wait 3-6 months or longer before a treatment appointment is available. So, while on paper there might be sufficient access, it doesn’t matter much if those providers are overwhelmed and have limited calendar availability. 

That’s why Ontrak Health puts so many resources into network building and provider relationships. We understand the core challenges our health plan clients face. And we work hard to help them overcome those challenges—and meet the needs of their members. 

Below I share the three main ways we help health plans expand—and improve—their behavioral health network, so they can offer both access and meaningful availability. 

#1 Strong provider relationships 

Many behavioral health providers don’t participate in insurance. As our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Judith Feld, explains in this article, there are comparatively fewer behavioral health providers in the healthcare industry.

And because of that lack of supply relative to demand, many providers can find plenty of patients willing to pay out of pocket. 

Obviously, if they can sustain a practice independently of payers—providers will usually choose that approach. So right off the bat, a big challenge for health plans is finding providers who are willing to join their network. 

It’s here that Ontrak’s unique approach really makes a difference. We have forged incredibly strong provider relationships because of our shared mission—and commitment to member success. Providers value our model because we support their work with consistent and systematic Care Coaching, which helps ensure members stick to their full treatment plan. 

In this way, we’ve found that more providers are willing to work with us—and therefore join our clients’ health plan network. Providers care about members, and they want to work with a team who can help ensure the best possible care. That’s why they choose Ontrak Health. 

So, the first way we support clients is by forging and maintaining those strong provider relationships.

#2 Rapid network expansion 

New clients sign on with Ontrak Health in large part because we can rapidly expand their behavioral health network. 

How do we do it? Through those strong provider relationships. Most of the existing providers we work with agree to join our new client’s networks. They want to continue building on the momentum we’ve created. So once a health plan becomes a client, their members can instantly benefit from a larger behavioral health network. 

In addition, our team moves fast to reach out to providers in each client’s geographical area to entice new providers to join their network. 

The same blueprint works here too. Because of our mission-driven approach to member care and wellbeing, we have a great track record of converting providers who aren’t currently participating in a health plan network. They find our model appealing and are therefore more inclined to join. Similarly, we entice providers who already work with other payers to join our client’s network as well.   

So, the second way we support clients is through systematic network expansion based on new and existing provider relationships. 

#3 Member priority   

Finally, once we have sufficiently expanded our new client’s network, we get to work optimizing relationships within their existing network. Again, this is where our mission-driven approach makes the difference. 

Most providers who participate in insurance participate in several networks. So, in effect, health plans—and their members—are competing for availability. 

However, because of the confidence we inspire with our proven Care Coaching model, we have found that providers will give preference to Ontrak members over others. We help sweeten the pot with other incentives too.

For example, we guarantee providers a certain number of members. In return, they guarantee Ontrak a certain number of appointments. 

So, the third way we support clients is by maximizing availability, helping members get a priority fast track for the treatment they need. 

The Ontrak Health network effect: 7,400 contracted providers in 45 states

Taken altogether our unique approach to network building is the fastest way for health plans to expand and enrich their behavioral health network. Ontrak fast track priority helps ensure appointment availability, giving members quicker access to the quality care they need. 

The numbers tell the story. 

• Member contact within 2 days of referral
• Members seen within 10 days of appointment request
• Members seen within 14 days for medication management 

Members shouldn’t have to wait. And neither should you. 

See how our model works—and what it could do for your behavioral health network.