Dr. Ari Kalechstein
In a Forbes article entitled, America After COVID-19, author Soulaima Gourani opined, “For businesses and industries to recover and thrive in these uncharted waters, they must not freeze and hunker down. Instead, they must move forward and develop new models to be ready for what’s to come.”
We fully agree.
Just over 4 weeks ago, and as a consequence of COVID-19, we decided to transition EMH to a TeleHealth care model. Our primary goal was to ensure that EMH clinicians could continue to serve those medically and mentally ill individuals who were most likely to be affected by the shelter-in-place policies. At that time, EMH was providing no remote care, we had not purchased any equipment to offer this service, nor had we worked out the logistics of delivering an effective TeleHealth model.
While change can be difficult and distressing, there are times when, due to necessity, it must be completed without delay. Currently, EMH clinicians are delivering TeleHealth services at 30% of the skilled nursing facilities in California that we serve. Additionally, we’ve offered over 2,000 hours of psychological and neuropsychological consultation in just three weeks’ time. By the end of May, we expect to be servicing 50% of our facilities via TeleHealth, and anticipate that we will partner with other facilities, as well. It is a testament to the EMH clinicians and staff and our skilled nursing partners that they demonstrated the capacity to adapt to an environment that was and is rapidly changing.
Innovation has been key. We sourced the hardware that would facilitate TeleHealth care with a minimized likelihood of disease transmission, and identified a series of programs that would serve as a mechanism for providing TeleHealth. We even created a new job: Device Technicians are EMH staff who move the device from room to room so that patients limit their physical contact with the equipment.
It is also about professional commitment and personal courage. EMH staff and our colleagues at the skilled nursing facilities have ensured that those individuals who were most in need of mental health care obtained the services that they required and deserved.
EMH clinicians stand shoulder to shoulder with the staff at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, and we are ready to provide mental health care to those who truly are in need. It is our mission to lean into this crisis and to be of service to our community. Our aim is to be proactive. Together, we can move forward.