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WellSouth clinicians take up telehealth for mental health service during COVID-19 outbreak

Tuesday 21 April 2020

WellSouth’s mental health services have quickly adjusted to the world of COVID-19 and self isolation – continuing to support patients by providing consultations by phone and video.

Brief Intervention Service provides short-term counselling to clients with mild to moderate mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. BIS clinicians ordinarily see patients in person at clinics around the district but with the country in lockdown, the team are now offering sessions online instead.

“Clients I’m seeing appreciate that there are new options for care,” says mental health clinician Debbie Cartwright, herself working from a home office.

 Referred through their general practice, clients can receive counselling by phone, but when offered a choice, most are choosing video sessions.

 To access the session, clients are emailed or texted a message with a secure link, accessible from their personal computer or mobile phone. Clicking the link puts the client in a virtual private waiting room until the clinician starts the session.

 “Counselling is secure and private and confidential. No one else can hear or see the session, just the same as if it were an in-person session,” Debbie says.

 Stacy Harborow, WellSouth primary mental health service manager, said an appointment via video can be beneficial for clients and clinicians.

 “Seeing a person’s facial expressions is informative to the clinician, and for a client, it offers a greater level of engagement,” she explains.

 While video consults won’t replace face-to-face counselling session – personal contact is an important part of health care, especially mental health services – telehealth is likely a service that is here to stay for WellSouth primary mental health team.

“We want to help as many people as we can. We have used telehealth from time to time in the past, but in the current environment the frequency has increased significantly and it’s been invaluable for clients and clinicians,” Stacy says. “If this is an option people want to use, then telehealth may continue to be a way we offer care post-COVID-19.”

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