Over the past few weeks dozens of programs have been offering services via telehealth platforms and we expect this number to grow dramatically. We applaud providers for increasing access to care during this crisis. There are several potential gaps with telehealth that need to be addressed such as the increased risk of patient attrition, challenges with isolation and the need for connection between sessions.
Under ideal circumstances, patient attrition is a concern for treatment programs. We can all agree that this environment is less than ideal, which means that attrition may be higher than before. Telehealth may make it more difficult to create a strong therapeutic relationship that is critical in treatment. Providers need to pay extra attention to tone and body language to make sure patients are engaged.
Isolation and anxiety are always an issue and in this crisis much more so. Telehealth may increase the feeling of isolation and needs to be complemented with peer support and community. A vibrant community of peers who share similar experiences can provide hope, support, inspiration and encouragement. Programs need to make sure they are providing access to these types of social supports and actively encourage patients to participate.
At lower levels of care, patient engagement between sessions becomes even more important, especially with telehealth. Providers need to be identifying others ways to stay connected and engaged, for example sharing relevant content and resources. Understanding how patients are doing between sessions through clinical assessment tools will be important. These surveys must be able to be completed remotely by the patient. Finding little opportunities to connect and see how a patient is doing will go a long way.
With any innovation, like telehealth, there is going to be a learning curve and enhancements to be made. But time is of the essence and we need to make sure that some of the telehealth gaps are being addressed by providers. Focus on increasing touch points, providing community and resources along with assessments to better serve patients during this crisis.
CaredFor provides an engagement app to 125+ treatment programs across the country. If you are interested in how we can help support your telehealth efforts, schedule some time on my calendar.