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The Transition of Academic Mental Health Clinics to Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Abstract

Objective

A consortium of 8 academic child and adolescent psychiatry programs in the United States and Canada examined their pivot from in-person, clinic-based services to home-based telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aims were to document the transition across diverse sites and to present recommendations for future telehealth service planning.

Method

Consortium sites completed a Qualtrics survey assessing site characteristics, telehealth practices, service use, and barriers to and facilitators of telehealth service delivery prior to (pre) and during the early stages of (post) the COVID-19 pandemic. The design is descriptive.

Results

All sites pivoted from in-person services to home-based telehealth within 2 weeks. Some sites experienced delays in conducting new intakes, and most experienced delays establishing tele-group therapy. No-show rates and use of telephony versus videoconferencing varied by site. Changes in telehealth practices (eg, documentation requirements, safety protocols) and perceived barriers to telehealth service delivery (eg, regulatory limitations, inability to bill) occurred pre-/post-COVID-19.

Conclusion

A rapid pivot from in-person services to home-based telehealth occurred at 8 diverse academic programs in the context of a global health crisis. To promote ongoing use of home-based telehealth during future crises and usual care, academic programs should continue documenting the successes and barriers to telehealth practice to promote equitable and sustainable telehealth service delivery in the future.

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