Telehealth boosts mental health patient engagement, care plan compliance
New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center, based in Jamaica, New York, operates outpatient mental health clinics in underserved communities in New York City.
Prior to COVID-19, it provided 100% of services via in-person visits. When a state of emergency was declared in March, the healthcare organization needed to quickly pivot its delivery method so it could continue serving the patients who very much needed services. This required NYPCC to get set up on a telehealth platform and to enable all of its clinicians to work remotely.
When the state of emergency was declared, NYPCC realized it was imperative that it pivot to a telehealth model that allowed the organization to continue providing the vital services its communities needed.
“Rolling out a telehealth platform is something that normally should take months, but needed to be done in just a matter of days,” explained Joshua Klein, director of strategic planning at NYPCC.
“We were focused on the needs of our clients and making sure that whatever telehealth program we rolled out would allow for 100% of our clients to continue services. Many of our clients do not own a smartphone, have no internet connection at home, or are unfamiliar with some of the technology that would be needed to participate in telehealth sessions.”
"We wanted to allow for a video option as well, since we felt that this would allow for better engagement, especially for the many children we serve."
Joshua Klein, New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center
New York State allowed for some regulatory relief during the state of emergency, which allowed NYPCC to quickly accomplish its goal of rapidly rolling out a telehealth program while maintaining continuity of care. The main provision that helped achieve this was allowing the use of telephone-only therapy. This meant that any clients who do not have access to an internet-connected device, or were unfamiliar with the technology, could continue receiving services uninterrupted.
“At the same time, we wanted to allow for a video option as well, since we felt that this would allow for better engagement, especially for the many children we serve,” Klein said. “After reviewing the various platforms available to provide video sessions, we decided to use Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams was selected based on a number of factors, including cost, ease of use and security, as well as the fact that it integrates well with our existing Office 365 subscriptions.”
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MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Within a matter of days, New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center was providing greater than 95% of its services via telehealth, using a combination of telephonic and video sessions. When it came to Microsoft Teams, NYPCC provided training, workshops and other resources to get both patients and clinicians on board with using the platform.
“We also integrated Microsoft Teams with our EHR platform to allow for simple and easy scheduling of these appointments, and with Twilio to allow our clients to get text message appointment reminders with the link to their therapy session,” Klein explained.
“These integrations greatly helped reduce the learning curve associated with rolling out a new platform. Our clinicians only need to maintain one calendar within our EHR and do not need to maintain a separate calendar within Microsoft Teams.”
Patients are able to receive the link to join their session via text message, which is especially useful for those who do not have access to email, he added.
NYPCC has received positive feedback from both patients and clinicians on the move to telehealth.
“We have seen increased engagement with our clients and a higher compliance rate,” Klein reported. “While previously someone would miss an appointment due to weather or various other factors, now these sessions can be held virtually without any issue.”
USING FCC AWARD FUNDS
Earlier this year, the FCC awarded New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center $126,799 to implement telehealth to serve low-income and at-risk patients struggling with mental health issues, in order reduce 911 calls and emergency room visits and expedite post-hospital discharge, and in order to free up space in New York City’s hospital system.
“We have used the FCC funds to implement a remote setup that has allowed our clinicians to continue working from home without any disruption,” Klein said.
“Additionally, these funds have allowed for a successful integration of Microsoft Teams with IMA, our EHR. We have also purchased equipment, so that every single office within our clinics is set up with a microphone and webcam, allowing for telehealth services to continue for the foreseeable future.
“We have seen very positive feedback and results from the implementation of telehealth,” he concluded, “and we look forward to the continued expansion of this program.”