August 28, 2020
By: Staff Report, BayCare PR
TAMPA, Fla. – At a time when individuals’ mental wellness may be under stress more than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BayCare Behavioral Health practitioners have found a safe way to keep serving their patients even when they don’t see them in person.
Similar to other BayCare services that have embraced telehealth, Behavioral Health is offering virtual care to its outpatient and in-patient populations for the first time and have found it a highly effective alternative.
These virtual visits allow practitioners to see patients for their behavioral health needs using a telehealth platform that is accessible through a computer, smartphone or digital device. The service means individuals can get assistance without having to leave their home, a particularly important option for those who may be most medically vulnerable if they contract COVID-19.
Since the service launched on April 1, BayCare has provided more than 15,000 telehealth visits, serving about 11,000 pediatric and adult patients in the in-patient and outpatient settings.
Edwin Jackson, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist at BayCare, has found this innovative technology valuable for his patients.
“At the beginning, I was nervous using telehealth with my patients,” said Dr. Jackson. “However, this service has become the silver lining to an unexpected storm. It’s easy and efficient for routine follow up visits, and very convenient for our patients.”
BayCare’s Behavioral Health, which provides a wide range of mental health and substance use services for children, adults and families, launched telemedicine as an option for patients when Governor Ron DeSantis issued statewide closings and stay-at-home-orders. This platform allows patients to receive medical care when appropriate without leaving their home. Those admitted into our facilities are able to virtually connect with their physicians safely and on a regular basis.
“As the pandemic was spreading, we wanted to offer our patients a solution that was safe and convenient,” said Gail Ryder, vice president of Behavioral Health services at BayCare. “This service has been a life saver for our patients. We’ve been able to provide care for them from the safety of their home and help conserve personal protective equipment.”
Telehealth has shown reliability for both patients and physicians. Dr. Jackson, who’s seen hundreds of patients virtually during COVID-19, said this tool has helped him care for his patients in a way he hadn’t done before.
“It’s been different checking on patients through a screen, but they have been comfortable with it,” said Dr. Jackson. “When pediatric patients get nervous, I perform a puppet show for them to help break the ice. This help light up the mood, build trust and create a more open communication.”
Given its success during COVID-19, BayCare’s Behavioral Health hopes to expand access and integrate telemedicine as part of its standard of care beyond the pandemic.
“Telehealth has shown value during this time of crisis,” said Ryder. “We want to continue to work with local and state legislature to expand access and sort through any ethical, legal and financial obstacles. We are optimistic that we’ll make that happen and enable patients to continue to use the platform for behavioral health needs and other health care services.”
For more information on BayCare telehealth services, click here.
For more information on Behavioral Health services, click here.