Expanding Treatment Access with Telehealth Services

By: Pine Rest Staff

Young woman at home waves to someone she's talking to on laptop computerAmy VanDenToorn, LMSW, manager of the Campus Clinic, has been using Telehealth Services with her existing patients. VanDenToorn saw the need for an alternative for a handful of her patients who were struggling with attending their appointments. They faced challenges related to transportation, distance, work schedules and childcare.

“I offered teletherapy sessions to see if it would help my patients overcome these barriers. What I discovered was that my patients enjoyed being able to attend a therapy session from the comfort of their home or at a lunch hour at work.”

She has been using Telehealth for a wide variety of conditions:

  • Women with postpartum depression and anxiety who find it challenging to get out of the house have provided positive feedback. A mom now doesn’t need to wake up her baby to receive therapy.
  • Some patients are close to finishing up treatment for depression and anxiety and need shorter check-in sessions. They enjoy the convenience of not having to drive for a shorter session, and it’s less intrusive on their schedule.
  • Telehealth was helpful for patients in crisis who were lacking transportation. VanDenToorn was able to get a better assessment through video versus over the phone.
  • College students like the convenience of having the same therapist when they are home and when they go off to college.

“I love trying out new methods in treatment, and teletherapy has intrigued me due to the increased access we can provide for our patients.”

Telehealth helps with breaking down barriers and improving treatment for those who may have not been able to finish treatment due to issues with transportation or scheduling difficulties. Many who use Telehealth enjoy alternating between being seen in the office and through Telehealth.

“Anytime I see barriers that might be reduced with teletherapy, I offer Telehealth to my patients, not only for them, but also support persons who may normally not be able to attend in person due to location or schedules. This flexibility really helps to increase access to services and thereby aid recovery.”

Pine Rest Telehealth Services plans to have 100 trained clinicians in the outpatient clinics by the end of the June 2018. The goal is not to replace traditional in-person care, but rather to use this technology to enhance the services already provided, establish new relationships with outside providers and improve access to patients, families and the community. Pine Rest’s hope is this will result in decreased cost-to-serve and improved clinical outcomes.

This article first appeared in the 2017 Pine Rest Annual Report: Opening Doors, published April 2018.

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