Q&A: How Avivo telehealth services increase access, serve more

We teamed up with Jason Lennox, Director of Revenue Cycle Management, BJ McElrath, Program Director, and Amar Patel, Quality Assurance Manager, to learn how telehealth is advancing Avivo’s services during the pandemic and beyond. Check out this Q & A:

How did telehealth get started at Avivo?

On a Monday in early March of 2020, we got word that we were stopping face-to-face services within two days due to the pandemic. From Monday to Friday we had selected, purchased, and set up software; trained 100 case managers; and we went “live”. Telehealth allows us to reach anyone, anywhere. As long as clients have some sort of semi-modern device we can have a face-to-face interaction. We’re using telehealth for mental health case management, treatment programs, as well as some of our comprehensive assessments.

What are some hurdles you’ve had to overcome?

We had to overcome some tech hurdles because telehealth, as a major component of our services, is a new feature for Avivo. Staff also needed newer computers, on top of training.

Another hurdle we’ve been working to overcome is that many of the people we serve don’t own modern cell phones or computers capable of video chat. We’ve been inviting friends of Avivo to consider donating a cell phone they might have sitting around.

What are some positives you’ve seen from the use of telehealth that were unexpected?

The biggest unexpected positive is how we’re actually saving money which we can then use to help more people. We developed processes and systems to allow for electronic review and signatures, convert paper documents into electronic, and collect enrollment and eligibility information electronically, as well. All of that allows us to save money we’d otherwise spend on printing and staff time managing paperwork in a HIPAA-compliant way, and now documents stay secure the moment they’re seen and signed by program participants.

Another positive is that telehealth has increased access to our services. Now we can reach individuals where they are, literally. For example, there is one participant in the mental health clinic who was court-ordered to attend therapy. She planned to meet more in-person. She doesn’t miss any appointments. She realized she can be here or not, and just log in to get into the waiting room using telehealth.

How do you see telehealth as an innovation that will help advance treatment and recovery in the future?

I think what made Avivo’s COVID-19 response unique (related to telehealth) was we were able to quickly set up something that would work for the long-term.

Another benefit relates to mental health treatment where there’s still often a stigma. Long-term, some people are still going to be hesitant to go into an office for mental health services. Telehealth allows them to stay in their own environment and feel comfortable seeking treatment.

Another advantage is the ability to increase access of our services to clients. We’ve had clients who have had to move and this allows us to provide access without having to drive out or meet directly with the client. Also, let’s say someone’s in a hospital and they need that comprehensive assessment because they’re going to be discharged and released. They can call and we can jump on a telehealth session to connect them to services.

Telehealth could be the difference between someone living and not living.