A love for technology and a passion for mental healthcare weaved together to lead Dr. Tarik Shaheen to create Iris Telehealth – the nation’s leading telepsychiatry organization.
During his residency at the University of Virginia, Dr. Shaheen had the opportunity to serve as a child psychiatrist and work in telepsychiatry.
Telepsychiatry is the remote delivery of mental healthcare to patients via videoconferencing technology. Iris Telehealth does not do direct-to-consumer services; rather, it partners with healthcare organizations to provide them with telepsychiatrists to treat their patient populations.
“When I first dabbled with telepsychiatry, I instantly had a passion for it,” Dr. Shaheen said. “Looking back, I think it comes down to my internal drives and curiosities. My three biggest loves in life are psychiatry, technology, and people.”
So he decided to take his telepsychiatry experience a step further by founding Iris Telehealth in 2013. Shortly after this, he decided to position his headquarters in Austin.
Tarik Shaheen, M.D. Founder and CEO
Adam Hemmen, COO
“I chose to move our company to Austin because it’s the perfect place to nurture a rapidly growing company like ours,” Dr. Shaheen said. “It’s a startup hub, and its growing population is promising for getting the best talent.”
Today, this telepsychiatry organization is now licensed in nearly all 50 states and employs more than 100 providers.
The United States is facing a mental health crisis. There is a national shortage of psychiatrists, so people throughout the nation struggle with getting their basic healthcare needs met – particularly in rural areas. This is where telepsychiatry comes in to help meet that need.
Iris Telehealth partners with hospitals and clinics throughout the country to bring psychiatric care to areas that otherwise wouldn’t have it. While some might refer to telepsychiatry as a “staffing solution,” Adam Hemmen, the Chief Operating Officer of Iris Telehealth, says it’s much more than that.
“It’s all-encompassing,” Hemmen said. “We don’t just provide our partners with a doctor. We build their customized telepsychiatry department and do all the work for them – from covering the cost of the doctors’ benefits to their licensing and credentialing, we do it all.”
Telepsychiatry is an emerging field of medicine, but it’s rapidly growing. The technology available is extensive, and though legislation is different in every state, it is growing more and more permissive each year.
“The benefits of telepsychiatry boil down to three main categories: cost, access, and quality,” Dr. Shaheen said.
Where cost is concerned, using a telepsychiatry company to fill staffing needs saves money for any given hospital or clinic in the long run. Often, they have job postings up for months or even years before filling the position, but by filling it more quickly, they are able to increase their earnings and save money for the organization.
By utilizing telepsychiatry services, access to care is improved for people in areas where they otherwise would have a three to six month waiting period. Otherwise, they might have to drive several hours away for a routine psychiatric appointment.
The quality of care is often improved by using telepsychiatry, as well. When the option exists to select providers from anywhere in the country, it increases the pool of doctors willing to take a job. This allows people to hire the best of the best, leading to better outcomes.
“I truly believe telemedicine is the future of healthcare,” Dr. Shaheen said. “Technology is a part of every aspect of our daily lives – from our workouts to the way we communicate with family. It’s only natural that it would segue into healthcare.”