In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, routine in-person health care visits have been temporarily put on hold in efforts to conserve personal protective equipment and to maintain social distancing. As the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services eased restrictions on telehealth, virtual provider visits have become the temporary norm.
Over the past few months providers throughout MelroseWakefield Healthcare and its physician practices at Tufts Medical Center Community Care, have seen 60 percent of patient visits via telehealth. Included in those numbers, is an increasing number of behavioral health visits seen either online or over the telephone by Community Counseling Services, our outpatient behavioral health providers.
“For many of our behavioral health patients, maintaining regular visits is crucial,” said Daniel Carlat, MD, chair of psychiatry at MelroseWakefield Healthcare. “Telehealth is a great option when in-person visits aren’t available. Studies have shown that patients benefit as much with telehealth as with regular office visits, and some even prefer telehealth because of the convenience factor, which is huge.”
The routine of regular visits with a behavioral health provider is very important, and stopping those sessions altogether during stay-at-home state requirements could have had some negative results for some patients.
“People may be feeling particularly vulnerable at this time, and we need to be sure to stay in contact,” said Dr. Carlat. “Social distancing may be affecting patients who have been finding comfort in the company of friends and loved ones. Now that is gone. Connections are so important and telehealth allows us to continue making those important connections.”
The pandemic has also brought many new patients to behavioral health practices. “We’ve seen increasing numbers of people looking for some help in getting through this unprecedented time,” said Dr. Carlat. “Increased fears about health concerns, job loss and social isolation have brought about increasing stress and anxiety for many people.” Dr. Carlat says if you are feeling persistently sad or hopeless, have a number of physical complaints, can’t sleep or feel unable to participate in normal activities, you may need to speak with a professional. Call your primary care provider and have an honest discussion with them about your feelings.
Below are some ways that you can continue to stay connected
- Be proactive. Take it upon yourself to reach out to others. Call or e-mail a friend or relative you haven’t communicated with in a while.
- Be creative. Being physically separated doesn’t mean that we can’t interact. Have dinner with someone online. Find a group of friends to watch online movies with together.
- Be consistent. We are used to having routines. Prior to the pandemic we would see people at regular given times…at work, at meetings, through social gatherings…try to schedule connections with some regularity.
- Be mindful. Don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself. Sometimes it may be important to take some downtime for reflection or meditation.
If you are in need of a behavioral health provider, please call 800-540-9191 or visit melrosewakefield.org.