Is COVID-19 worry and fear causing you stress and anxiety? You’re not alone. Experts have warned that many are likely to face poor mental health even after the Coronavirus pandemic has passed.
In a recent paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry, mental health scientists including neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and public health experts caution of the long-term impact of the virus on people’s mental health.
Professor Rory O’Connor, from the University of Glasgow, and one of the paper authors said: “Increased social isolation, loneliness, health anxiety, stress and an economic downturn are a perfect storm to harm people’s mental health and wellbeing. If we do nothing we risk seeing an increase in mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. The scale of this problem is too serious to ignore, both in terms of every human life that may be affected, and in terms of the wider impact on society.”
While some worksite health companies are choosing to reduce service offerings during lockdown and shelter in place orders, CareATC is choosing to expand services to ensure continuity of care.
Expanded Health Coaching and Behavioral Health Services
Health coaching services are traditionally known for supporting patients to live a healthier lifestyle, but CareATC has expanded the team’s role to help address the stress and anxiety that patients are facing during the pandemic.
“All of our health coaches are licensed clinical professionals, credentialed as Registered Dietitians, Registered Nurses, or Exercise Physiologists. Typically our health coaches work with individuals one-on-one to help people reduce their risk for chronic disease,” says Dr. Kim Hutton, Chief Medical Officer at CareATC. “In the time of Coronavirus, we are asking our health coaches to use their training and experience with motivational interviewing, chronic disease management, lifestyle management, and overall needs comprehension to assess their level of anxiety and stress.”
Typically CareATC coaches will use motivational interviewing to assess a patient’s readiness to change behaviors, which leads to developing a plan of care for patients to reduce their risk for chronic disease. For patients identified as needing further assistance, CareATC health coaches triage these patients and provide access to further resources.
“For some patients, they may not know that they are at risk for chronic disease and we have learned that patients with heart disease and diabetes are at a higher risk for a negative outcome if they contract COVID-19,” says Nicole Kimble, CareATC Manager of Health & Wellness. “ The health coach is a sounding board offering stress management and anxiety relief techniques.”
In early March, CareATC transitioned their health coaches to virtual encounters so there was no disruption in access for patients. Health educational group classes targeting chronic conditions also transitioned into a virtual format.
Improving Medication Adherence While Reducing Risk of Exposure with Convenient At-Home Delivery of Prescription Medications
Northwind Pharmaceuticals is partnering with CareATC to provide prescription medications delivered directly to patients’ homes.
“This extended CareATC service to clients is especially beneficial to patients with chronic conditions who are a population most at risk for COVID-19 infection. By eliminating periodic visits to the pharmacy and improving medication adherence, we can support patient outcomes and provide stability during these uncertain times” says Betsy Bigler, RN, MSN, President and Chief Operating Officer for Northwind Pharmaceuticals.
According to the company, access to medications through at home dispensing improves adherence by as much as 30%, saving self-funded employers critical healthcare dollars from employee non-adherence costs.
“We’re helping to extend the value of what CareATC has already put in place with virtual primary care visits, health coaching, and now direct-access to prescription medication. Together, we’re helping patients maintain their health with vital medications while eliminating the need to visit a pharmacy,” says Phil Berry, CEO of Northwind Pharmaceuticals.
Providing Care in a Time of Need
CareATC recently began offering COVID-19 test sites for clients and distributing COVID-19 Care Kits to patients with flu-like symptoms. The kits contain masks, gloves, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. While these services offer essential support to public health efforts, they remain largely reactive. With recent efforts, CareATC is thinking ahead and employing proactive strategies to mitigate risk and expand care through health coaching and direct delivery of prescription medication.
“When others are looking for reasons not to provide care, we believe we’re here to provide care in a time of need. We’re being responsive, proactive and meeting the needs of CareATC patients. We’re not waiting for things to play out to be of service. We’re aiming to bring stability in an unprecedented time,” says Greg Bellomy, Chief Executive Officer at CareATC.