Sustaining Telehealth Care Delivery May Require More Than a Pandemic: A Note From Our Chief Innovation Officer, Brandon Ward
Despite communication tools for remote patient/client care being available for decades, the broad healthcare system has been slow to adopt Telehealth, even with established positive outcomes research. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of Telehealth as a way to continue care while enforcing physical distancing.
In a matter of weeks, Jefferson Center, like many healthcare providers, moved the majority of our services remotely. Prior to COVID-19, we had intended to execute a series of pilot projects to verify the effectiveness of using Telehealth and other remote care innovations such as text-based care within our community. However, within days of the stay-at-home order being announced in Colorado, we were up and running, offering services from our homes to the homes of our community members.
Thankfully, we were able to make this transition due in no small part to our staff and clients showing an amazing ability to adapt in these challenging times. As it turns out, Telehealth has also become quite popular within our organization. Preliminary survey results show that 83% of our clients report preferring video or phone for their future visits and 88% of our clinical staff report experiencing Telehealth as an effective way of providing care. This is great news, especially since COVID-19 will not be disappearing overnight.
Beyond the immediate safety role that Telehealth has provided by allowing us to properly provide care while social distancing, our clients tell us that connecting to their provider remotely has been extremely convenient, leading to an increase in appointment show rates across our organization. Even after this pandemic, Jefferson Center would like to continue supporting our goal of providing community access to broader mental health and substance use services. Telehealth plays a big role in doing so.
Certainly, this newfound popularity paired with established research on the effectiveness of Telehealth should be enough to see the use of this modality continue long-term. I hear many industry leaders talking about “the new normal” and that healthcare delivery has been changed permanently as a result of this pandemic. I am hopeful this is true; however, the continued use of Telehealth is far from guaranteed. COVID-19, and the emergency expansion of funding to support Telehealth services, meant that providers had the right conditions to quickly change the way care is delivered.
However, when the need for physical distancing dissipates, insurance providers (including Medicaid/Medicare) do not have to continue broad funding of Telehealth services. If you and your family have found Telehealth to be effective and convenient, please reach out to your healthcare providers, insurance provider, and legislative representatives and let them know.
COVID-19 required us to adapt quickly. Now, In order to sustain telehealth and other innovative ways of providing care, we have to build sustainable systems that continue to put our community’s needs first.
To find out what you can do to help us provide continued access to Telehealth services, join our Policy Action Network (PAN). PAN establishes and maintains positive relationships with elected officials and other decision-makers to promote adequate resources and improve the lives of community members.
If you’d like to learn more about how Telehealth appointments work at Jefferson Center or know what to expect at your next Telehealth appointment, click here.