The Coronavirus, Telehealth, and the Future of Behavioral Health

As you are all now acutely and painfully aware, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed every aspect of our lives and introduced an ominous sense of uncertainty and fear for our loved ones. It also has changed how we provide behavioral health services, limiting face-to-face contact whenever possible and using telehealth methods such as teletherapy video conferencing and telephone calls. As discussed in a previous blog post, Better Outcomes Now (BON) is designed to allow remote administration of the measures and application of the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS) from the client's own device as well the functionality that exists in face-to-face discussions, including the graph and progress information.


Teletherapy and Telephone Counseling | Coronavirus | Behavioral Health | Better Outcomes Now


The Miracle Invention

You can still do PCOMS even if you do not have BON and even if your clients do not have access to the internet or smart devices. There is a miracle invention that allows this: the telephone.

You can administer over the phone the oral versions of the PCOMS measures, which you can download from this site. Simply click on PCOMS in the main menu, choose PCOMS measures, and then agree to the license and enter your email (not used for any purpose other than registering your agreement).

After administering the oral versions of the PCOMS measures, you can enter the scores in real time into BON or any other system, or onto a paper and pencil graph so you can discuss the client's progress. 

Behavioral Health Teletherapy and Telephone Counseling | Coronavirus |  Better Outcomes Now

It is ironic that we are discussing PCOMS and telephone counseling given that a significant milestone in the history of PCOMS occurred in this format. Our first published study (in 2006) about the benefits of PCOMS was conducted via a telephone-based employee assistance program. That study demonstrated a two-fold advantage for PCOMS and was the precursor of our now eight randomized clinical trials conducted by researchers of BON.


Don’t Compromise!

Please do not allow the Coronavirus to compromise the quality of services that you deliver nor your commitment to privilege the client’s voice about the benefit and fit of services whether you are a BON subscriber or not. Remember, what started PCOMS was my commitment to client directed therapy and a desire to actually do more than give lip service to egalitarian services.


Are Teletherapy and Telephone Counseling the New Normal?

One last thing as you navigate these troubling times with clients. In my discussions with leaders in public behavioral settings, a disconcerting theme has emerged. 

What if teletherapy and telephone counseling services become the new normal for behavioral health? We do not know how long current conditions will persist nor do we know how funders will respond in the long term.

As agencies scramble to realign services in the context of the Coronavirus, we best consider how much teletherapy and telephone counseling services will become a core component of delivering behavioral health care in the future.

Stay safe and know that we are with you in your mission to provide quality services in these frightening times. We are in this thing together.

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