On March 11, the walls of the Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) conference room were lined with sheets of sticky paper filled with plans of action. The F&CS Pandemic Emergency Management Team quickly recognized that traditional face-to-face care would be risky for staff and clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the largest outpatient behavioral health provider in Oklahoma, the agency needed to rapidly shift to a virtual environment for 508 employees including therapists, physicians and case managers to ensure continuity of services for over 1200 vulnerable and mentally ill clients F&CS cares for each day.
Driven by a determined leadership group, a flexible workforce, adequate technology equipment, telehealth software and a talented technology team, F&CS transformed their entire service delivery system in a just couple of days.
“F&CS has always had a strong commitment to technology as a differentiator. Over the last several years we have strategically invested in solutions to allow our digital infrastructure to be more resilient and remotely accessible. Current circumstances have forced us to rapidly increase our adoption of these technology solutions,” said Brent Harris, F&CS chief information officer.
Teleservices isn’t new for F&CS. For the last four years, F&CS Psychiatry has been using tele-psych with much success. Through a similar structure, F&CS quickly implemented privacy-compliant, virtual therapy for 60 programs over the course of a few days. Crisis calls are continuing to be answered by the Community Outreach Psychiatric Services (COPES) Crisis Hotline.
In-person psychiatric care is still available through the CrisisCare Center’s 16-bed, stabilization unit and crisis recovery center. The F&CS in-house pharmacy continues to provide medications and injectables for clients.
“We focused on scalable solutions to support virtual work, staff collaboration, and teleservices. This allowed us to support our employees and clients during this unprecedented event,” said Harris.
F&CS employees quickly adjusted to remote meetings, collaborations and conversations using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, FaceTime, Google Voice and ClockTree.
Therapy appointments are being scheduled using Microsoft Teams and Doxy.me, both secure telemedicine solutions compliant with federal patient privacy laws. The sessions are not recorded and no outside party can join. The therapist emails an invitation to their client who downloads the Microsoft Teams app on their phone or computer. The therapist initiates the call.
Urgent times call for urgent care. The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping mental healthcare with a technology-led commitment to client care. The quick upscaling of F&CS’s virtual care capacity advanced the agency five years in just a few days.