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Behavioral health professionals embracing telehealth as patients social distance

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Editor’s note: This episode of the MGMA Insights podcast continues a series focused on COVID-19 and its effects on healthcare professionals and their patients. Keep up with the latest updates by visiting the MGMA COVID-19 Action Center.

In this episode, we’re joined by Shane Lunsford, MBA, CCT, CST, administrative director; Valerie Krall, MA, LCMHC, director, behavioral medicine; and Allison McCarty, MSW, LCSW, behavioral health care manager – all with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) for Psychiatry and Mental Wellness in Ashville, North Carolina. The COVID-19 crisis has forced the trio to navigate a quick transition to telehealth and to find new ways to manage the mental health of their patients, as well as their own.

Here are highlights from the episode: 
  • (4:02) “We’re tracking things on a daily basis, and we’re changing our operations almost as quickly. One of the biggest changes that we’ve seen in this crisis is that it’s pushed forward telemedicine tremendously, not only at our level, but on a state and the national level.” – Shane Lunsford
  • (10:10) “I was providing some telephone sessions to patients, but it was predominantly 90% in-person appointments. Now, I have shifted to 100% telehealth.” – Allison McCarty
  • (13:53) “There’s definitely been people who have been more stressed and anxious with all the uncertainty, but I’ve been really impressed with how so many people have risen to the occasion.” – Valerie Krall
  • (15:14) “I am really viewing COVID and this pandemic as a trauma, a collective trauma that we’re all experiencing. … We’re trying our best to cope – and that looks different each day for all of us.” – Allison McCarty
  • (33:16) “A patient I’ve worked with for quite some time relies on a wheelchair, and it literally requires at least a half a day or more for him to actually get ready, ride a certain transportation service, get to the clinic in advance, have his appointment, wait a couple hours again for the transportation service and go home. Now, we go to him on the dot of when his appointment’s supposed to start. He was just ecstatic and hoping that it doesn’t go back to the old way.” – Valerie Krall
  • (39:08) “As therapists, we’re not only trying to manage our own emotions around what is happening, but we’re holding the emotions of all of our clients right now that we care for a lot.” – Allison McCarty 
  • (44:34) “This is not only a crisis from the pandemic standpoint with COVID, but it’s also a mental health crisis. We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of folks that are now experiencing mental health issues. Hopefully most of them will be temporary, but they’re experiencing these issues, so how do we respond to that? How do we increase our capacity to be able to meet the needs in our community and help keep our communities safe? We are trying to think outside the box, find new ways to engage folks, whether it be through virtual group sessions or through chat or other ways of just keeping folks out of the emergency room.” – Shane Lunsford

Additional resources:

Additional resources in this series:


If you like the show, please rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher or countless other platforms to make sure you never miss an episode. 

MGMA Insights is presented by Decklan McGee, Rob Ketcham and Daniel Williams.

Thanks to nThrive for sponsoring this episode. 
  • For more on how nThrive is helping organizations drill into their physician data and achieve substantial results, visit nThrive.com. You can also click here to register for their upcoming MGMA seminar titled “Leverage Data Analytics to Improve Physician Practice Profitability,” which is eligible for ACMPE, ACHE, CPE (live only) and CEU credits.
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