In 2018 Canvas Health launched a pilot for telehealth—a new way for clients to meet with their providers through an app and the camera on their computer, tablet, or smartphone.
After an assessment and initial appointment at a Canvas Health clinic offering telehealth, the clinician and the client can determine whether telehealth would be helpful and desired.
There are a lot of reasons why clients are using telehealth. Clients or kids are sick. The roads are icy. Medical issues prevent them from making their appointment. They moved further away, but want to keep their therapist. They really need to talk to someone immediately.
By far the most common, say Canvas Health clinicians like Megan Chaffee, are ongoing transportation issues. “It’s convenient for clients,” Chaffee says. “And many have challenges getting to the office. They don’t have a car or a convenient bus route or they have health problems, which makes getting around difficult.”
It takes staff a few sessions to get used to providing services this way. They have to get comfortable with the technology and how to explain and coach the app to clients. Plus, it can be harder to read nonverbal cues and it’s awkward at times—especially at the beginning—but a lot of clients like it and, most importantly, it keeps sessions consistent. A 45 minute appointment can take two hours when factoring drive time to and from a clinic. Telehealth saves time and often increases clients’ willingness to commit to therapy.
For Liliana Freire-Bebeau, a Canvas Health psychotherapist in Cottage Grove and Bloomington, it’s given her the flexibility to meet her clients when and where they need her. “It’s like an extra office,” she says. “You still have to do some things face-to-face. I never want to get rid of that…but it does help get clients treatment and keeps them consistent.”
Jay Theisen, Canvas Health’s Director of Outpatient Clinics, has seen this buy-in from other providers once they experience their clients really benefiting. He’d like for all service providers to be able to offer it as a secondary option for those not able to make it into the office. “I hope that clients will soon seek us out because we provide telehealth and can use it to engage more effectively in their recovery.”
As for the future, Canvas Health is still figuring that out. Their providers started using telehealth to provide treatment plan updates and are looking at assessment updates, too. Substance Use Services is starting to use it to provide increased access for clients at schools.
Chaffee is excited about what comes next. “I hope it continue to provide flexibility to clients and clinicians to meet clients where and when they need it. It’d be great if that helps us reach more clients.”
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