Telehealth keeps I/DD patients close with their docs during pandemic

The Arc Madison Cortland in Oneida, New York, knows that there is a lack of providers that specialize in the intellectual/developmental disability field. Making the problem worse, not so many that understand dual diagnosis.


With COVID-19 minimizing the ability for individuals to receive face-to-face services with their providers, many patients are resorting to emergency department visits.

Additionally, The Arc is in a rural area requiring travel to see a provider, and there is a lack of providers in the field. The population itself is underserved, with a lack of transportation to get to appointments. Without the ability to institute telemedicine as a solution to these problems, the population supported by The Arc would have seen a lengthy (permanent?) pause for needed medical services.


The Arc this year received funding from the FCC to help provide telehealth services.

“With this funding we can further treat patients, reduce crisis and allow for social distancing, which is imperative to our vulnerable population,” said Jackie Fahey, director of clinic services at The Arc Madison Cortland. “We could provide ongoing services to the individuals we serve to ensure there are no unnecessary emergency department visits. This places less of a strain on our local emergency departments and unneeded additional costs.”

With the purchase of tablets and headsets and telehealth services from vendor, The Arc was able to still provide medical care to its population of people with an I/DD. Additionally, eliminating emergency department visits also eliminates their exposure to COVID-19 and eases the burden of the ED providers who are overburdened right now.


There are many vendors of telemedicine technology and services on the health IT market today. Healthcare IT News recently compiled a comprehensive list of these vendors with detailed descriptions. To read this special report, click here.


“When all of our locations were closed abruptly in the middle of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we needed to determine a way to quickly and easily implement a telehealth solution so that we were able to still support the individuals that we serve during the crisis, especially when many were under strict quarantine protocols for a variety of reasons,” Fahey explained.

“We signed up immediately for the telehealth platform as it was a user-friendly platform that is HIPAA-compliant. The feature we liked about was that it is web-based, so nothing had to be downloaded and it could easily be used on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.”

The Arc rolled out the technology initially with its mental health providers, who offer psychiatry/medication monitoring services, social work counseling and mental health counseling. More than half the organization’s enrollment is enrolled in one or all of these three services, so it was able to continue providing services to a large number of enrolled individuals.

“We then began to roll the telehealth services out to nutrition, speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy caseloads if individuals were appropriate to receive the service through telehealth,” Fahey said.


The first success metric The Arc has been able to achieve with the technology is maintaining its utilization for mental health services. When everything was running normal prior to COVID-19, The Arc’s mental health services made up about 25% of the services it provided on a monthly basis. With the implementation of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization was able to achieve 20% of the services provided on a monthly basis.

This has shown to staff that they have been able to still serve and respond to the needs of their psychiatry, social work and mental health counseling patients with minimal issues by implementing the telehealth technology.

“The second success metric we have been able to achieve with the technology is we have been able to continue to receive referrals for our services and enroll new individuals into the services they need if the services are able to be completed via telehealth,” she said. “Between April, May and June, we have enrolled 16 new individuals into ongoing clinic services, which is right on par for our normal enrollment average per month.”


The Arc Madison Cortland was awarded $49,455 by the FCC earlier this year for laptop computers and headsets to provide remote consultations and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic for psychological services, counseling, and occupational and physical therapy for people with developmental and other disabilities.

“With the funds, we purchased headsets and tablets to allow the people we support to have access to medical appointments, along with physical therapy, occupational therapy and psychology appointments remotely,” Fahey explained. “The technology enables us to continue to provide these services at a time when the people we support are unable to leave for traditional in-person appointments.

“Because these are such uncertain times, and a time frame for when we may return to ‘normalcy’ is unknown, the technology allows us to continue delivering medical support without the concern of a pause in those services.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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