Helio Health treats patients with substance use disorders and behavioral health issues. With thirty-five separate locations across New York State, Helio provides hope to thousands annually. Helio Health’s comprehensive support services include short-term community residences (halfway houses), outpatient counseling, referrals, and a host of clinical services for those living with substance use and mental health disorders.
Helio’s patients often have heightened medical conditions that hinder them from traveling. On top of that, COVID-19 is an added threat for both staff and patients. So, how do you keep both your patients and staff protected without compromising the level of patient care Helio provides? Telehealth.
At the time of this project, Helio Health, Central NY Services (CNYS) and Insight House (IH) each received a COVID-19 Telemedicine grant from the FCC for this project. After working closely with all three organizations to decide the best possible solution to better their services to their patients, ICS delivered their scope of work to them in June 2020. By August of 2020, the work had officially begun! With their grants, Helio, CNYS and IH were able to purchase Microsoft Surface laptops, iPads, and upgrade their telephone and network systems to support the increased demand of remote traffic. ICS helped with the deployment of the laptops as well as refurbishing all the old machines.
The Surface laptops went to outpatient staff to give them the mobility to work from anywhere and the iPads were given to the patients. These devices are dedicated to outpatient services which include, but are not limited to, the Opioid Treatment Program (OTP), Center of Treatment Innovation (COTI), Dual Recovery Program (DRP), Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) and CHOICES for Adolescent and Young Adults.
To help make the transition to remote services smoother, Helio uses Microsoft Teams to communicate with the patients. “We extended our Microsoft Teams to be internal and external use. This made for a seamless transition for the staff and patients," said Corey M. Zeigler, CIO of Helio Health.
Some of the biggest challenges patients face are lack of transportation and childcare resources. The implementation of telemedicine alleviated the stress of these obstacles by allowing patients to receive the care they needed from the comfort of their own homes.
“The biggest challenge we faced was moving through that kind of cultural change," Zeigler said. "It wasn't a technology issue. It was just an acceptance issue. At first, patients were like, uh, what is this? How do I do it? It's unfamiliar. What if it doesn't work? Who can see my information? What's the security of it? You know, all these unanswered questions, and so we just had to keep a campaign of communication support and encouragement behind it to keep it moving.”
Now that staff and patients have adjusted to the changes telemedicine looks like the way of the future. "I would be surprised if we ever went back to the way we operated before the pandemic, even when COVID-19 is gone," Zeigler said. Zeigler stated that with telehealth, they were able to provide care to people who would have otherwise gone without help. "What care did we provide that otherwise wouldn’t have happened? We are able to keep both our patients and staff safe. Telehealth is going to be a permanent part of our future care model."
For more information about Helio Health and their services, visit https://www.helio.health/