Behavioral health and addiction treatment providers have an important role to play in the coronavirus outbreak. As healthcare professionals, behavioral health clinicians should be ready to address concerns about the coronavirus from both clients and team members.
Avoid coronavirus spread and infections
Behavioral health organizations can help reduce the spread of coronavirus with the usual infection-control and disease-prevention measures:
Frequent hand-washing among providers, staff, and clients
Provide hand sanitizer, facial tissues, and wastebaskets in waiting rooms, bathrooms, and consultation rooms
Require any staff members who feel unwell to stay home
Maintain clean facilities
Establish an emergency preparedness plan in case your practice needs to close during the outbreak
Encourage clients who may be sick with a cold or flu, or who were exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 (the virus responsible for coronavirus infections), to use remote telemedicine solutions, if available.
Behavioral health organizations may need non-clinical staff to work from home, if possible. This may require significant adjustments to the usual operations and workflow. Leaders can help by taking several critical steps:
Maintain open communication, but stay calm and stick to the facts
Keep workers engaged and encourage information sharing, possibly with a dedicated platform or internal communication tool, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams
Determine your priorities and expectations, while also staying flexible
Understand behavioral health concerns from coronavirus
For some individuals, the fear and anxiety around the coronavirus may be worse than physical illness. In addition, many behavioral health or addiction treatment clients have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, that may make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.
Behavioral health clinicians should be prepared to help clients, their families, and the general community understand the potential impact of the coronavirus. The outbreak may lead to stigma against infected individuals or groups, or mistrust of healthcare providers.
Clinicians should also be aware that fears of coronavirus may trigger or worsen many behavioral health conditions, including:
Anxiety or OCD
Psychosis or delusions
Depression or loneliness, especially in quarantined or hospitalized individuals
Behavioral health professionals can help their clients and communities in many ways.
Participate in public discussions about the virus, including partnering with other healthcare providers.
Discuss cleanliness and infection control measures with staff.
Keep up with information from national and global health and science leaders.
Use telehealth during the coronavirus outbreak
On Friday, March 6, President Donald Trump signed into law the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020,” a spending bill that provides $500 million through waivers for Medicare telehealth restrictions.
In general, Medicare coverage of telemedicine has been reserved solely for individuals in rural areas who lack convenient access to specialist treatment. The Coronavirus Preparedness Act allows the government to waive those restrictions in an emergency.
Although Medicare recipients cannot be tested for COVID-19 via telehealth, the expanded use of telehealth in response to the coronavirus can help with patient evaluations. This may alleviate any increased demands for care. Patients and behavioral health clients can also use telehealth to avoid potential exposure to individuals who may be infected with COVID-19.
Looking for a telehealth option with behavioral health?
The new spending bill indicates the increasing value and importance of telehealth, especially in an emergency like the coronavirus outbreak. If you’re looking to add telehealth to your behavioral health or addiction treatment practice, BestNotes EHR has a variety of options for you. Contact our team to learn more, or schedule a free demo!