The COVID-19 pandemic hit hard last March, shutting practically everything down. A common question most of us had was, “what do we do now?” While the transition to providing telemental health services proved difficult, we at Lakehouse Recovery embodied the concept of just making it work, and that’s what we did. Over a year into this pandemic, we have worked toward keeping a very apparent culture at Lakehouse. We have been successful at adapting our programs and curriculum to fit patient needs as we remain in these unprecedented times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has unearthed many struggles for everyone; however, there are unique challenges presented to individuals struggling with substance use disorders, co-occurring mental disorders, and recovery. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides a list of COVID-19 resources for those in need during this time.
Common Challenges with Telemental Health Transitions
One of the challenges mental health providers are consistently seeing, based on research published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website (NCBI), is that despite “significant innovation to integrate technology for psychiatric care, it is not equally accessible for vulnerable populations suffering from mental health disorders.” Several barriers influence the effectiveness of telehealth services, including:
- Language barriers in implementing how-to guides that can help patients understand how to access online mental health care
- The population of elderly patients in an area who may not be familiar with the newest technology, or well-versed with technology in general
- Those who may not have access to technology due to their living or financial situations
Creating clear step-by-step guides and instructions with visual examples is one way some barriers can be remedied. These guides can be made in various languages to reach more communities. They would also be available in different colors and font sizes, making them more legible for all individuals. Additionally, it would be productive to have a 24/7 customer service contact line to assist people with any technological issues and securing their data.
In this day and age, we often wonder who doesn’t have a smartphone. Yet, studies from the Pew Research Center show that 29% of adults who make less than $30,000 a year don’t have a smartphone, 44% don’t have reliable home networks, and 46% don’t have a computer. One way to address those who don’t have access to technology is to create temporary funding sources, similar to how funds and programs were created in response to the pandemic. These funds could “target vulnerable patient populations” to lessen the risk of distress.
Telehealth Treatment Methods
Some of the methods the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests healthcare providers use to treat patients virtually include:
- Synchronous: real-time phone calls or live video chats
- Asynchronous: where messages, images, and data are collected and then analyzed and communicated to patients later. This method will often make use out of patient portals
- Remote patient monitoring: allows for direct communication or an open channel to their clinician and may or may not be in real-time
Please click the link above to learn more from the CDC about expanding access to healthcare services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benefits of Virtual Treatment Programs
Some refer to telehealth mental health services as “the next big frontier in the efficient and effective delivery of healthcare.” Just as the challenges must be understood, the benefits also have to be addressed. Studies show that therapy via telephone or video conferencing is as effective as in-person treatment. The necessity for virtual services has also motivated the innovation of better-developed mental health apps and internet-based services. Before the pandemic, some clinicians had already been practicing effective technological treatment methods, such as whether to check patient progress and providing materials and assessments or other recommendations.
Telehealth Programs at Lakehouse Recovery
Here at Lakehouse Recovery, we have worked hard to ensure a transition of our programs to virtual offerings. Despite the challenges of that transition, we’ve seen the benefits of telehealth services within our programs and patients. Many have found themselves in scenarios of isolation, where they are stuck in the house with relatives or family members and need time and space away from them. Attending virtual group meetings or individual sessions gives them that me-time opportunity.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, some people live alone and have experienced complete isolation and lack of connection. Those people have been able to find a safe community and support system. We’ve been able to maintain our 10-week curriculum for group therapy on all of our usual topics, such as family dynamics, yoga, and breathwork, to name a few.
At the Lakehouse, we have seen several individuals who would not normally have the opportunity to seek out treatment, instead have that opportunity because of our virtual and telemental health services. This includes individuals who would be unable to attend in-person programs because of work, lack of childcare, or any other related reasons.
Many have found themselves in times of crisis throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and have experienced threats to their recovery. Thanks to diligent healthcare workers, telehealth is now being offered to individuals on a global level. Despite the challenges faced by telehealth services, many patients have experienced beneficial therapy from the comfort of their own homes. With funds and continual adjustments, telehealth services may prove further usefulness as we hopefully begin to progress out of this pandemic. Lakehouse Recovery is proud to be able to provide our programs and health services to those in need. Now, thanks to telehealth, these programs can be provided not only to those in our local area but throughout California and even further! Please contact us at (877) 762-3707 to learn more about our telehealth services as well as our virtual programs. You should not have to stop your life in order to save it, and now thanks to telemental health, you won’t have to.