Telehealth - the Pandemic's Silver Lining
As we continue to serve our patients, while responding to the aftermath of the pandemic, we have implemented and expanded Sanford Virtual Treatment. At Sanford, we are all healthcare workers on the front lines, looking out for our patients every day. And we are committed to helping public health facilitators contain any and all public health concerns. At the same time, we are making sure those with substance use disorders (SUD), eating disorders and mental health conditions receive the treatment they rely upon.
Sanford Virtual Program Information
Virtual treatment or telehealth is one of the only silver linings during the dark cloud of the 2020 - 2022 pandemic. Telehealth allows our patients to adhere to health and other mitigating requirements while continuing to receive treatment and the benefits of connection to the Sanford community. In fact, as we all begin to emerge from the isolation of the past two years, our expanded telehealth programs are continuing for the foreseeable future and are available to those living in Michigan.
Our virtual programs are available in Sanford Outpatient Center for substance use disorder, Sanford Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders, and the Family Program. We also utilize virtual treatment for those in areas where addiction treatment is not readily available. And virtual treatment is ideal for Sanford patients who have completed residential treatment but live outside of the Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area. Those patients are able to participate in a long-term continuum of care while integrating back into their home and work environment (Michigan only).
Telehealth is also ideal for those who are not medically stable or who cannot get to an in-person group because of childcare, work, or school commitments. Similarly, for those who are staying connected to the Sanford community long-term with alumni, living in recovery, or other programs.
We were able to turn to virtual options for outpatient treatment during the pandemic. And I am grateful that Sanford is resilient, fast moving, and innovative. We miss the in-person connection, and prefer to conduct outpatient programs face to face. But virtual treatment is here to stay. Our patients have struggled with the added stressors in our country the past two years. Telehealth has allowed us to continue our work, while keeping everyone safe.Kaite Vokes, Chief Operations Officer, Sanford West Behavioral Health Campus
What is Virtual Treatment or Telehealth?
At this time, almost everyone in the United States has used telehealth for health-related problems. Telehealth use increased by 500% during the pandemic! Simply put, virtual addiction treatment utilizes “video chat” technology to offer the same evidence-based practices that our in-person programs provide, but in the comfort and safety of home. This was especially significant during the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs offered in our virtual treatment model are medication-assisted treatment (MAT); half-day treatment (IOP); outpatient programs; one-on-one and family counseling, and family and alumni support. We are continuing to add new programs as demand and our research dictates. Virtual users must live in Michigan.
Sanford Virtual Addiction Treatment is HIPAA-compliant, insurance-eligible and developed following HHS.gov.guidelines. Our professional Admissions Specialists are available to answer all questions you may have about our virtual programs. They will help you make sure telehealth is covered under your insurance plan.
Interactive virtual programs are accessed using a smartphone with a downloaded APP, or a computer with a video camera connection. Closed captioning is available. Groups are accessible by phone call-in if no Wi-Fi is available. Video groups are real-time and facilitated by a master’s level or higher clinician. It works very much like other group video technology – participants look at the screen instead of each other in a circle when face-to-face.
The screen contains a grid of participant faces (similar to the intro to the old TV show The Brady Bunch). And when the facilitator speaks, or anyone in the group participates, the group can see who is talking. At Sanford, we adhere to strict compliance with confidentiality: first names are used to identify group members. Also, email addresses are protected.
How Do I Get Started and What to Expect?
Virtual addiction treatment starts with a phone call to our admissions team: 616.202.3326
- Our admissions team will conduct a phone assessment and provide verification of insurance benefits, answer questions and “check you in”.
- You will be assigned a primary therapist and that person will reach out to schedule a biopsychosocial assessment. The assigned primary therapist will give clear instructions on how to enter a virtual group at that time.
- You will be assigned to a particular group and receive your schedule.
- Behind the scenes, our facilitators, administrators and clinicians will coordinate schedules, training guides, technical updates and generally keep each other informed.
At Sanford we understand that isolation is one of the earmarks of active addiction. And that community, friends and family connections are key to long-term recovery. In that regard, we make all of our programs, including virtual, a communal experience.
Sanford’s online resource, Excursions Magazine, is another virtual experience for our patients and others with an interest in behavioral health. Excursions articles cover everything from recovery stories, clinical and scientific topics, nutrition and wellness, to Sanford in the news, and more. Click the link!