Is Telehealth the Answer to Better Mental Health Care in the Future?

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telehealth with virtual afro American doctor appointment and online therapy session. Black doctor online conference. High quality photo

Photo credit: Depositphotos

By Nicholas Chepesiuk, founder and CEO, OnCall Health

The psychological impacts of COVID-19 are yet to be fully understood; but, we’re already seeing the mental health fallout from the pandemic especially as people continue to isolate. In fact, healthcare organizations are treating 50 to 175 times the number of patients they were prior to the pandemic. Because of this exponential increase, healthcare leaders and providers are looking for new and innovative ways to continue caring for patients. Enter telehealth solutions. 

End-to-end solutions such as OnCall Health, which are designed for behavioural and addictions organizations, enable providers to care for patients using digital tools, which help eliminate time and space barriers with features that touch every part of the patient journey. As such, implementing a strong telehealth operations strategy is important for healthcare leaders and providers as they prepare for the new epidemic – mental health. I recommend leaders consider three key factors when implementing a telehealth strategy, including whether their chosen telehealth solution enhances patient accessibility, offers asynchronous tools, and is secure and compliant. 

Opening a “digital front door

Delivering telehealth care means leveraging complete tools that enable care to happen anywhere, at any time, and in any way. With this in mind, it’s important for healthcare leaders to look for solutions that provide an accessible, intuitive entrance – a “digital front door” – to their telehealth programs. 

To understand if their “digital front door” is effective, healthcare leaders can ask questions like, “Does my organization have an accessible way for patients to book appointments online?” and “Do providers have a place where I can engage directly with patients and share relevant information and content?” By questioning their tools’ accessibility and implementing features that address potential gaps, leaders can proactively mitigate any challenges that might arise in patient care from the outset. 

For example, Pyramid Healthcare took advantage of OnCall’s end-to-end telehealth platform to launch its branded virtual care program in just 30 days. This rapid response was needed to continue offering ongoing in-patient and out-patient care during the pandemic and resulted in 900% quarterly growth in scheduled appointments in 2020. In fact, 95% of Pyramid patients agree that the telehealth platform enabled them to access crucial healthcare during the pandemic. With features like Pyramid’s branded digital booking page, informed consent, and virtual care options like video conference, instant message, and phone, patients are able to receive care when it’s convenient for them. 

Asynchronous tools enable ongoing care

Additionally, healthcare leaders should look for complete telehealth solutions that offer asynchronous tools, such as content features, that enable providers to share guides, rich media, forms, and more – before, during, and after an appointment. This content can support a patient outside of a video chat and provide ongoing care even when a patient is not in a face-to-face appointment. 

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centers uses OnCall’s content management tools to administer its intensive virtual outpatient program. The program is patient-led with educational resources shared through the platform, with an added weekly check-in with a provider through video or instant messaging. Through its asynchronous and synchronous programs, Trafalgar has acquired patients from all over Canada, enabling access to important mental health and addiction counselling that might not otherwise be available in their town or city. With personalized care, patients feel compelled to continue their healthcare journey using digital tools that make finding and receiving health care more convenient and accessible. 

Ensuring secure, private and quality care

Finally, I recommend leaders confirm their telehealth vendor’s software is healthcare security compliant in their country as well as state. In the U.S. this means organizations need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), now a table-stakes requirement for most healthcare organizations. As well, leaders can leverage their vendor’s support team for ongoing training for providers and administrators, with a strong emphasis on rules and regulations for security, technology standards, and “webside manner,” to help ensure patients are receiving safe and quality care. Supporting patients is equally important. Many healthcare leaders implement automated workflow steps that require patients to provide approvals prior to every appointment to certify that they understand their provider’s privacy standards. 

Complete telehealth solutions enable healthcare organizations and leaders to offer accessible, asynchronous, and secure telehealth to their patients. However, healthcare leaders need to question their solutions’ capabilities for mental healthcare patients. By reimagining healthcare delivery and choosing technology that offers the most accessible and secure digital healthcare experience for providers and patients, organizations can revolutionize how they provide mental healthcare as more patients seek out help. 

Nicholas Chepesiuk is the founder and CEO of OnCall Health, a technology company that provides best-in-class software to healthcare organizations, startups and clinics to deliver and manage telehealth operations and programs. Under his leadership, OnCall Health is growing rapidly and is used by healthcare’s leading brands, including Allianz, Pyramid Healthcare Inc., and Shoppers Drug Mart. 

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