COVID 2021: The Frenemy of Telehealth

COVID 2021: The Frenemy of Telehealth

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend" - Winston Churchill  

As devasting as the pandemic has been, Copa Health never closed its doors nor laid off a single employee. The pandemic unexpectantly forced us to pivot and embrace telehealth. With a newly developed telehealth strategy in hand, Copa was able to remove the artificial barriers that have traditionally challenged the delivery of our person-centered approach to integrated complex care services. 

Copa Health is a non-profit with 1300 employees focused on integrated health services and delivering complex care needs for individuals with behavioral, intellectual, and developmental disabilities and challenges. We provide service to 14,000+ members in the State of Arizona and inspire health, hope, and happiness by delivering world-class solutions to individuals, families, and communities.

On March 9, 2020, exactly one week before the COVID-19 shutdown in Arizona, Copa pivoted and implemented a telehealth solution in record time, less than two weeks. We equipped our staff, developed workflows, rolled out HIPAA compliant policies, integrated with our EHR, and went live at all our integrated clinics on April 1, 2020. By the end of June 2020, our Primary Care Providers, Behavioral Health Medical Providers, and Counselors completed thousands of encounters that would not have been possible without telehealth.

We believe telehealth is here to stay simply because our ‘frenemy’ appears to be hanging around for a while

Yet, we did not stop there! Our innovative mindset has now translated to making new virtual programs like Music Therapy, Chair Exercise Fitness, and Family Peer Support by leveraging the same technology platform.

Looking back, utilization measurement by roles and individual providers has been our recipe for success. Quarterly Key Performance Indicator reviews and participation surveys have been critical to analyzing our members' encounter preferences(telehealth vs. in-person) and quickly adjusting our best practices. All the while, keeping an eye on provider adoption and the needed "champions" that you can rely on to advocate for adoption and workflow improvements has proven crucial for our success. 

Specifically, with our members, we quickly realized that not everyone is technology savvy. That being said, the ability to provide assistance at the time of service is imperative. Thus, we are now training and enabling our staff to promote the advantages of telehealth and provide technical assistance.  

Keep in mind that technology is never a silver bullet.  Not everyone has the technical aptitude to use telehealth.  Many of our members simply do not have internet-enabled devices at their disposal. Our best-practices approaches have had to include workflows to provide services telephonically. When deemed appropriate, members with greater complex needs were provided access to technology to not disrupt their treatment plan. 

Sixteen months later, 25 percent of Copa's total encounters were completed via telehealth, with an extremely high satisfaction rating. We are now focusing our training efforts on enhancing our staff's soft skills regarding telehealth: managing conflict and keeping members engaged over video, becoming comfortable with long pauses during service, the importance of "eye contact" with the camera, etc. Even our hiring and onboarding practices have required change. We now include telehealth setup and animated video training to ensure a positive experience. 

The moral of our story… every challenge has a silver lining, and your frenemy may at times be your best friend.  Looking to the future, we believe telehealth is here to stay simply because our "frenemy" appears to be hanging around for a while. 

Array

EHR

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