Telehealth keeping patients and providers connected during coronavirus pandemic

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we interact with each other by the day.

More social distancing means physical and behavioral health care providers are finding new ways to get closer to their patients.

16 News Now learned how telehealth is making that easier.

It's just like the name sounds, healthcare over the phone or internet. Telehealth is now taking center stage during the coronavirus pandemic as patients look to stay connected to their providers.

“People in mental health crises could increase due to the isolation,” said Oaklawn Adult and Addiction Services Vice President John Horsley

That's one thing Horsley says Telehealth will be able to help with when continuing services for clients at home.

“Medicaid and Medicare have really loosened their guidelines during this crisis which has been very helpful to people. In terms of accessing care,” he said.

Those Medicaid and Medicare changes happened last week, allowing telemedicine and telephone options for most health care and mental health interactions.

Horsley says there are some situations where they'll still meet with clients face to face.

“People who are contemplating suicide, people who are contemplating homicide, people who are becoming very impaired because their psychosis is increasing. These are behavioral health emergencies, so we would need to see them face-to-face to make sure that they're safe and getting what they needed,” he said.

Telehealth systems have been active at the South Bend Clinic for more than a year.

Now they’re needed more than ever.

“Mothers who are doing video visits for their three-year-old child, up to 99-year-old patients using the video system for all types of services, primary care and specialty both,” said South Bend Clinic C.O.O. Shannon Hubler.

Hubler says he expect it to continue playing a large role once the pandemic is over.

“I think it will get adopted. I don't think there's any turning back. I think at this point we will make the paradigm shift to virtual,” he said.

Using technology to bring patients and their providers closer together.

If you have questions about how your plan covers telehealth and telemedicine, reach out to your insurance provider.