Hybrid telehealthHybrid counseling refers to the combination of telehealth and in-person healthcare. Both healthcare aspects are being recognized as an indispensable pair of treatment modalities for successful care management.

While the country’s healthcare providers quickly rose to the challenge of providing virtual care due to the pandemic, there will come a day when the pandemic is behind us, and many people will still want to see their healthcare providers in person. Ideally, telehealth will remain a viable option rather than a necessity, its purpose being to work synergistically as a hybrid with in-person care. Telehealth has the promise of improving coordination of care, access to specialists otherwise not available, and convenience/removal of barriers such as travel time, child care, time off work, and greater care-seeking, which all lead to better health outcomes. The proven synergy of hybrid counseling and in-person healthcare during the pandemic has dramatically increased awareness of the benefits of using hybrid counseling to augment in-person care and the drawbacks of each.

Though grounded in technology, the human factor remains the core of telehealth success. Being able to establish and maintain a therapeutic relationship is the core of behavioral healthcare. Informed, effective use of hybrid counseling technology that builds trust between a provider and patient requires specific skills for which practitioners need to be trained. Combining skilled use of innovative technology with greater access will result in improved quality of care.

To accommodate the now-recognized need for widespread broadband infrastructure, the recent Executive Order in the United States requires a report to be submitted from the Department of Health and Human Services, addressing:

  • Increased rural access to healthcare by eliminating regulatory burdens that limit the availability of clinical professionals;
  • Prevention of disease and mortality by developing rural-specific efforts to drive improved health outcomes;
  • Reduction in maternal mortality and morbidity; and
  • Improved mental health in rural communities.

Other aspects of the Executive Order and other legislative action in several areas have been mandated while the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Has Been Extended to December 31, 2021. See Telehealth Reform: US Congress Heeds Public Outcry for details.

Hybrid Counseling: What Needs to Happen Post Pandemic?

The pandemic spurred on the use of telehealth for both providers and patients, forcing each to dive into the deep end of the pool, where they had to learn to manage any way they could to maintain their therapeutic relationship. As COVID wears on and professionals and consumers alike are learning to adapt to telehealth, it is becoming clear that telehealth is not going away. Its many benefits have become routine for many professionals – the advantages of working from home, avoiding a commute and possibly traffic, avoiding expensive office overhead, not needing to buy, wear, and keep office attire.

Many professionals enjoy the benefits of increased flexibility in their schedules, breaking their workday into two or three blocks, with time enough to enjoy a hobby or family life, or run errands between regular appointments. On the clinical side, clients and patients have greater access to services, and providers have a cost-effective means to deliver them. Health care delivery during the pandemic has given everyone a glimpse of how technology can help improve healthcare by offering more convenience and immediacy, without the annoyances of traffic, parking, waiting, and exposing oneself, not only to COVID but other infections are making their way to healthcare offices. Professionals and clients/patients alike are seeing a broader horizon of possibilities in how and when healthcare can be accessed.

Whether you choose to remain virtual full-time, go back to in-person care full-time, or create a hybrid counseling mix of the two, healthcare will never be the same. Consumers will want the increased flexibility of telehealth. No matter where you are on the planet, and no matter which language you speak or what role you play in healthcare, digital and in-person healthcare can work hand in hand to provide superior healthcare service and outcomes to all people. However, for professionals to operate both legally and ethically with some form of telehealth, provider training is advisable.

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