Telehealth Offers Lifeline for Patient Care and Practice Operations

“I never considered telehealth before and now my practice is completing 3,200 visits a month via telehealth”

Like many other healthcare practices, before March 2020, Lone Star Psychiatric Services had never considered using telehealth to for patient care. Then, COVID struck and they had no other option. Now, they say they can’t consider running their practice without it.LS telehealth

Lone Star Psychiatric Services has five providers and eight staff members who serve long-term care and assisted living facilities throughout Texas. Traditionally, providers travel onsite to facilities for patient care but the pandemic put these residents at high risk and closed the facilities to outside visitors.

“Once nursing homes were shut down, we knew the need for psychiatric care would only increase and we had to quickly adapt. We hadn’t considered telehealth before but we knew Updox offered it, as we’ve used them for electronic data management, along with our Greenway EHR, for three years,” says Wendy Grimes, executive administrator, Lone Star Psychiatric Services. “We received an email from Updox about telehealth and, all in all, we were up and running in just days to maintain care for our patients.”

Wendy led training for Lone Star’s providers and staff and also worked with facility staff as most of the residents they serve don’t have their own cell phones. “We not only had to get our staff used to the process but also the facility staff, as we had to rely on their cell phones, tablets and laptops and train them remotely as well. We worked through it. Nursing homes were grateful we were able to maintain a presence for residents. Families weren’t allowed in. There were no visitors. It was a scary time for everyone.”

Updox telehealth allowed residents to connect with their trusted providers. “We were able to help them quickly and continue our relationships with them. That was important to us and also important to them. We’re dealing with residents coping with depression, dementia, psychosis. We were concerned some wouldn’t talk over the screen or this might exacerbate some issues but it generally wasn’t the case. Residents appreciated seeing the providers’ faces and talking to them. It really helped them when it was needed most,” says Wendy.

Allan McCorkle, MD, a psychiatrist and owner of the practice, saw the same reactions during his consultations. “Our patients are scared and lonely. They’ve had no visitors for months now. They actually look forward to our calls. Their families are scared and we’re able to relay to them that their family members are doing well and getting the care and support they need,” he said.

Not only was the practice able to use Updox telehealth to create a lifeline to residents but it also helped the practice itself. “Before this, we didn’t consider telehealth because we were concerned about its acceptance by our patients and their facility staff and we couldn’t have billed for it and received reimbursement. Then, during the pandemic, it was the only way we could see patients and we were able to get reimbursed,” says Wendy. “Without Updox, this would have hurt our practice immensely. We’re grateful for this option and the ability to continue our services.”

For those reasons and more, Wendy says that telehealth will continue as part of Lone Star’s service delivery. “We’ll go back into facilities as soon as we can but we’ll absolutely continue to use telehealth post-COVID where it makes sense. We see the value of this. We don’t have to rely on staff descriptions. We can watch for behaviors or see tremors for ourselves. It also allows us to be available and respond quickly in emergency situations,” she says. 

“Updox worked out extremely well for us. It allowed us to see patients immediately and, plain and simple, we wouldn’t have been able to see patients without it. I’ve seen firsthand the difference that a telehealth call can make. It really helps people. I’ve referred several colleagues to Updox because I know the service works,” says Dr. McCorkle.

In addition to being able to get up and running quickly with telehealth, Wendy also appreciates Updox Customer Success and Support teams. “Updox offers great training and tools to make sure you are using the solutions correctly and answering any questions you have,” says Wendy. “They made implementation so easy and they are so quick to hop on and solve any problems that come up. They offer online guides to use on your own but are also there to hold your hand when needed.”

“I’m so tickled with Updox,” says Dr. McCorkle. “I never considered telehealth before and now my practice is completing 3,200 visits a month via telehealth. We’ll keep using telehealth after this to augment our services.”

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