Telehealth Network Grant Program: Pikeville Medical Center
The Georgia Health Policy Center recently spoke to Brandi Adkins, director of hospital education at Pikeville Medical Center, and Lisa Estep, vice president of grant development at Pikeville Medical Center about their efforts to build a behavioral health telehealth network in rural Kentucky.
To date, what has been the biggest accomplishment of your telehealth program?
Brandi: I am proud that the telehealth program brought new positions to our emergency department at Pikeville Medical Center. This grant allowed us to hire a case manager and a social worker that we never had before. Both are much needed positions in our emergency department.
Lisa: One thing I see that has been beneficial to our community is being able to connect with our local school systems to put telehealth and telepsychiatry into schools. Because we are in a very rural area and travel can be complicated at times for parents, being able to offer these services through a telehealth platform has been a blessing for everyone involved.
What is a tip you would share with an organization launching a similar telehealth program?
Brandi: I would advise everyone to network as much as you can, especially if you are working in a rural area like we are. Telehealth is somewhat new to our organization. COVID-19 definitely pushed it along and we had to learn how to make it work quickly. I recommend networking with people who already have telehealth in place and are more familiar with it. They will know the good, the bad, the ins and the outs, what works, and what doesn’t work. Reach out to those people, make connections with them and, of course, do research.
For the behavioral health piece, if you have not already started to implement telehealth into these programs, look into it, because it truly opens doors. Pikeville Medical Center launched new therapy programs since COVID-19 began which, many times, eliminates the need to see a therapist in-person. Using telehealth is a huge benefit to have to get your services out there and reach more people.
Lisa: One thing I have learned from Brandi is that we only play a small part in finding a solution to a big problem. We started discussing that before we were in the Telehealth Network Grant Program (TNGP) and Brandi mentioned that our medical facility did not have psychiatric services. Developing this telehealth program has allowed us to network with other agencies who can help bridge our gaps. We would love to help spread the word of how important it is to understand that you cannot fix everything without partners and a network that brings people together. You find out quickly that you can do a lot more when collaborating with others than by just trying to fix it yourself.
How does participation in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s Office for the Advancement of Telehealth grant program impact your broader health improvement efforts?
Lisa: We are in a very rural area, and we know that to better service our community and meet the needs identified in the community needs assessment, we need to pull together and create networks. We do a community needs assessment every two years and behavioral health was one of the needs we identified within our hospital.
TNGP came along for us at a great time. During COVID-19, our emergency department was seeing more psychiatric and behavioral health patients than in recent years. We began building the network in time to be able to serve many of those coming in with these needs.
What will your organization be doing more of or differently to emerge stronger from the pandemic?
Brandi: Telehealth was here, but just making its appearance as COVID-19 emerged. The pandemic definitely accelerated the development of our telehealth platform. It made us realize how much we could accomplish through telehealth. Of course, we had to adapt and change a lot of our processes and procedures across the whole hospital, but we worked together and got it done. While COVID-19 was and still is horrible and we are all ready to see the pandemic go away, it did bring to light that we are capable of more than what we realized.
Lisa: I think the pandemic brought the community together, and that has created more strength than anything as far as our programs are concerned. It was an opportunity to better understand the idea that ‘you are not alone.’ There are other agencies and other partners out there, and we can all lean on each other, which makes us mightier than just one single person or organization