24 Mar Managing Mental Health During a Pandemic with Online Telehealth Therapy Sessions
With the outbreak of Coronavirus, everyday life has become difficult for millions of people across the globe. The disease, also known as COVID-19, is highly infectious and can have varying effects on different people. According to the World Health Organization, the virus primarily spreads through saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Since its initial spread in January 2020, the rate of infection has been staggering, more than 400,000 reported cases, and over 18,000 deaths worldwide. As a result of the disease having such an aggressive infection rate, strict quarantines have been placed in many countries, with self-isolation being encouraged in others.
The Importance of Managing Mental Health
It’s a very stressful time, and with many companies closing, people losing work, or having to work from home, mental health is often neglected or forgotten entirely. For those living with milder cases of depression, anxiety, or PTSD, it is best to find a routine while being at home. Eating regular meals, taking breaks from being at the computer, connecting with friends and family over video calls, and physical activity that doesn’t involve going out in the community is ideal. There are pharmacies that offer to deliver prescription medications to homes, but this is not always possible. Some therapists do allow for medications to be ordered in bulk, as is the case when a patient travels for an extended period, though it’s not preferred due to the risk of overdose.
However, for those living with mental health conditions that are more severe, seeing a therapist is imperative, but can prove to be challenging right now. This is where a therapist holding telemedicine sessions can ensure their patients keep their mental health in check. The virus and quarantine can aggravate mental health issues to the point of many people not being able to cope, so it’s extremely important for patients to consistently touch base with a therapist. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. By providing virtual support during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health professionals can help clients during this time of heightened anxiety.
How to Seamlessly Move Therapy Online
For many behavioral health professionals, telehealth services may be a new experience altogether, which could cause some challenges to implement. However, there are numerous ways for mental health professionals to transition to online therapy sessions during the current pandemic. The goal is to set up communication in such a way that clients feel positive, supported, and cared for. Therapists should focus on individualizing the experience for clients in a way that reflects the value of this much-needed service they are providing.
Therapists can use many methods of communication in order to connect with patients during this time. The most logical and easily accessible method is a HIPAA-compliant telehealth service. Ultimately, professionals will need a solution that is PHI compliant and integrates with their EHR, especially once the pandemic HIPAA waiver is eliminated. Most EHR systems already allow for virtual care by including secure video session options. This allows healthcare professionals to safely and securely assess, interact and connect with clients wherever they are physically located during the quarantine. These integrated tools offer video chat services and remote access to all patient files and other important information needed to provide consistent, quality care.
Additionally, it is imperative for therapists to ensure that their computers, laptops, and tablets are functioning optimally to prevent any disruptions in online therapy sessions. This means updating operating systems, testing the Wi-Fi connection in advance, and creating a comfortable and private space in which to work. A secure and private space is of the utmost importance when it comes to remote therapy sessions.
Another factor for professionals to consider is making the technological experience as easy and comfortable as possible for clients. This includes testing the software, as well as providing clients with detailed instructions on how to access the services or specific video platform. EHR systems with client portals, connected video platforms, and billing solutions can make this process streamlined for both mental health professionals and their clients.
A Necessary Shift
Technology and innovative behavioral health EHR systems have ensured that therapy can actually happen from anywhere in the world. The quarantines and restrictions enforced due to the current pandemic proves that this shift in how therapy is conducted is necessary. It is advisable for therapists and patients to get into the groove of using distance session methods to prevent mental health from being neglected during troubled times.