From the Director: Adapting during the pandemic
By: Tiffany M. Booher, MA, LPC, CAADC, CIP, CCSM
The Physicians’ Health Program adjusted operations to support the health and well-being of our participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these program adaptations include changes in drug testing for immunocompromised or high-risk participants, digitizing our database system, and a move to virtual platforms for the following: evaluations when not contraindicated, teletherapy and therapy, 12 Step and other support group meetings, PHP monitor meetings and agreement signings.
We continue to encourage participants to follow the COVID-19 recommendations of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The PHP staff began working remotely March 17, 2020, and implemented new technology to ensure seamless service to participants, including DocuSign, Microsoft Teams, Digital Fax and Zoom platform.
During these unprecedented times, it has been essential for our treatment and evaluation providers to switch to virtual platforms. The majority of outpatient evaluations and treatment services are now delivered via telehealth or virtual platform. This has allowed for continued therapy for participants and a continuation of evaluation services to determine whether individuals need PHP services.
As stay-at-home orders in Pennsylvania counties were implemented, in-person 12 Step and other support group meetings were cancelled or moved to a virtual platform. The PHP adapted by accepting virtual 12 Step and other support group meeting attendance. The PHP also shared a list of virtual resources for these meetings via a mass message center message as well as on the participant home page on Affinity to support participants in continuing their sober support network efforts in a virtual capacity.
Participants and their PHP monitors have been encouraged to forego meeting in-person and switch to telephone calls, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or other platforms. This switch allows continued peer support while keeping both monitor and participant safe.
The PHP developed procedures and implemented virtual agreement signings via confidential Zoom platform. Meetings with the medical directors and case managers are conducted via Zoom and documents are signed digitally via DocuSign.
As change is the only constant during these times, we remind participants the PHP is here to support them through these difficult times. The PHP developed a list of behavioral health providers specializing in working with health care professionals experiencing COVID-19 related stressors, depression, anxiety, trauma, substance use, etc. Many of these providers offer virtual and telehealth services to make health and safety a top priority.