Being a healthcare professional during a pandemic is an unfamiliar and stressful circumstance. With the new social distancing rules in place, physicians all over the world have had to come up with patient care solutions.

Many physicians have implemented Telemedicine to their daily patient care.

Though it seems that implementing Telemedicine is the best solution given the situation, physicians and patients alike have mixed feelings. We asked an Outpatient Mental Health Clinician from Salem, MA, to share his experiences using Telemedicine during the Covid-19 Pandemic. He wishes to remain anonymous.

I think about five weeks ago, it was incredibly challenging to use telemedicine because we were restricted to only use Telehealth, also known as, during the first full week of working from home. Fortunately, the higher-ups at my work provided additional options for connecting with clients virtually. We had to utilize and obtain a consensus from them and have them either text it back to us or send an email as a PDF. So, I have used, Zoom, Google Duo, and FaceTime for Apple phone users as the methods of connecting with clients. 

Because I work with youth, I found that many kids felt very uncomfortable initially doing video chats and would put the phone down facing the ceiling and talking to me off-screen. So, I provided an option that we can just talk through voice rather than having to use video, which my supervisor allowed us to do. I find that with the current variety of options available to connect with clients virtually, I have been able to establish a comfortable means of virtual communication with them.

Video quality for each service would kind of depend on the day and the hour, as whether we were using Wi-Fi or actual data impacted the quality of the video. When I first used, the video quality reminded me of pixilated MPEGs from the early 2000s. I’ve had great quality with Zoom, Google duo, and FaceTime. One of the unfortunate drawbacks of using my work phone to do video conferencing has been the drain on my battery!

I found that using telemedicine has been quite the adjustment to the style of outpatient therapy that I would otherwise provide in-person, whether at my office, school, or out in the community. Some kids and families are open to engaging in a full 45-minute session, while some you’re lucky if you only get 5 to 10 minutes out of them before they disengage. It’s hard to require kids to be completely present and focused, as my style is not necessarily authoritative, but more exploratory and observational. 

Each week has had a different feel and theme. I have observed levels of engagement to be correlative with the degree of intensity experienced while adjusting to social distancing. Essentially, their status in mourning the loss of normalcy.

I wonder what use telemedicine will continue to have once we adjust to a new normal moving forward. One of the benefits I’ve experienced is I have found myself providing more traditional 45 to 50-minute therapy sessions with a clear goal and topic of discussion in mind. Whereas doing community-based mental health work has its challenges by all the sensory distractions that come with being in person at an office, school, or out in the community. On the other hand, it is very challenging to connect with people virtually who are obviously struggling but are not accessing the provided service due to a decrease in their functioning and well-being. People can choose not to answer the phone and not call back.