Community Health Center, Inc. (CHCI) provides primary care to more than 100,000 patients a year in Connecticut. The center delivers integrated behavioral health services in domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, school-based locations and 15 primary care sites. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, CHCI rapidly shifted to telehealth to ensure patients could continue to have access to care. One pressing need was for more behavioral health services, including for substance use disorder. With support from HRSA’s Optimizing Virtual Care grant, CHCI is using innovative strategies to improve virtual behavioral health care.
One strategy is an innovative virtual behavioral health outcomes-based measurement tool to track patient progress and perspectives. With this tool, patients receive a text or an email with a unique, secure link to complete a behavioral health survey. Patients receive the surveys consistently to check progress. They then review the survey results with their providers during their visits and discuss their care plan based on the results. A total of 11,370 CHCI patients completed measurements using this tool in 2022.
All behavioral health providers at CHCI are trained to use this tool, which gives them access to measures such as patients’ comfort in sharing emotions, feelings of restlessness and uneasiness, and ability to form strong attachments. Providers are finding the tool useful in understanding how the patient feels beyond their 20-30-minute visit—particularly for their pediatric patients. They find that pediatric patients often enjoy assessing their progress alongside their provider during visits, and adolescent patients are especially receptive to the tool.
“As a child and adolescent psychologist, I have found this tool to be a uniquely informative way to receive updates and perspectives from both child and parent,” said Dr. Tim Kearney, CHCI Chief Behavioral Health Officer. “Adolescents in particular are using the tool to fill out detailed descriptions about how they feel about the care they receive and/or their relationship with their therapist, which can then be explored in treatment. There is a delightful eagerness teens express about seeing their progress tracked with graphs and figures. I personally benefit from receiving feedback about the overall relationship.”