Today, Compass Health announced the organization-wide launch of its mobile telehealth system, Compass Health Bridge. The three-part system enables behavioral health professionals to connect virtually with clients in community and home settings via HIPAA-compliant, secure video chat for counseling, psychiatric evaluation and case management.
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Compass Health Bridge mobile telehealth system connects providers and clients. (Photo: Business Wire)
Compass Health is leading the industry in its use of integrated mobile telehealth for behavioral health care delivery on a broad scale. In fall 2019, the organization first piloted the Bridge system, which includes proprietary mobile devices that providers can control remotely to obtain a 300-degree view of a client’s environment.
Now, spurred by COVID-19 social-distancing, Compass Health has dramatically expanded deployment of mobile telehealth, training more than 500 behavioral health professionals to deliver care remotely and enabling many clients to communicate via their own devices. The need was urgent: throughout March 2020, client participation in outpatient treatment and other services was decreasing 20 percent week-over-week as community members adhered to the state’s orders to stay home.
“We are a frontline care provider to our communities’ most vulnerable members, who are also at high risk of COVID-19 infection and complications,” said Tom Sebastian, Compass Health CEO and president. “We also know that times of stress and uncertainty are especially challenging for those dealing with mental health and substance use disorder issues, so it’s imperative for us to continue counseling and treatment. The Bridge system allows us to do just that—we can maintain social distancing while still serving as a lifeline for whole person health.”
Compass Health will now use the Bridge mobile telehealth system across nearly all of its programs, including youth and family services, adult outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment, residential treatment facilities, and crisis response teams.
Additionally, the provider has deployed six Bridge mobile devices to emergency departments in Skagit, Island, San Juan and Whatcom counties, enabling its professionals to complete behavioral health assessments remotely. In addition to supporting safety by minimizing physical contact, this helps hospitals preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) by eliminating the need to provide it for Compass Health staff members on-site.
Compass Health’s services are particularly important during the COVID-19 outbreak. Its programs support mental wellness and treatment for substance use disorders, as well as the physical health of clients who are nearly all in the high-risk group for the coronavirus and unlikely to seek care from a medical provider.
Its triage centers, crisis response teams and other services also make a direct impact on keeping individuals out of the emergency room and inpatient care settings, freeing up beds for those who need treatment for COVID-19 or other serious conditions. And, while schools are closed, the organization’s youth programs help fill critical gaps for many families who typically receive special services from the education system.
Compass Health first began piloting the mobile telehealth system for select programs in fall 2019 to improve client experience and provider availability. Instead of losing time to ferry travel or hours in the car – significant challenges for an organization that operates from the foothills of the Cascade mountains to the San Juan Islands – Compass Health providers actually expanded their instances of care, using the system to virtually cross hundreds of miles to provide high-quality services for their clients.
“We’ve seen firsthand how Bridge plays a crucial role in our ability to maintain our systems of care,” said Compass Health Chief Medical Officer Camis Milam, MD. “Many of the people we serve view Compass Health professionals as their primary healthcare resources, and it’s important that we continue to provide access for vulnerable members of our communities.”
The three components of the Bridge system, built on Integrated Telehealth Solutions’ technology platform include:
- A HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based platform built on Zoom that enables secure video chat;
- Proprietary mobile devices – similar to an iPad, but with enhanced functionality – that providers or other team members can bring to clients’ homes or community settings;
- A secure portal that enables providers and clients to log onto Bridge and interact utilizing their own Internet-enabled mobile devices, laptops or desktops.
One way clients can access care is through the Bridge mobile units. Compass Health team members bring the devices to clients, who then begin their medical appointments in their homes, schools or other community settings rather than having to meet at Compass Health offices. Once logged on, providers interface with clients from their office or primary location, remotely controlling the device’s 300-degree camera to observe the client’s physical appearance and environment.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Compass Health team quickly added capacity to the Bridge system that allows clients to use their own devices to log onto the system using a secure link to connect with their provider. With the help of funding partners Verdant Health Commission, EverTrust Foundation, Office of Crime Victim Advocacy, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Washington, and others, Compass Health was able to expand access to its essential services, making the system available to more than 5,000 clients in a matter of days.
“How we care for behavioral health and physical health is rapidly changing, and our 500-plus Compass Health providers quickly adopted and trained on this system to better respond to current circumstances,” said Stacey Alles, chief operating officer at Compass Health. “We’ve seen the impact of using innovations to advance whole person health across our organization, and we know this will make a huge difference in the communities we serve.”
In addition to leveraging Bridge for enhanced client experience, the Compass Health team has also utilized the system to support clinical supervision and management and team communication. With a footprint that crosses five counties, Bridge allows staff members to meet virtually and align on treatment plans or changes in medication.
“For many healthcare consumers, it’s commonplace to use mobile telehealth for non-urgent medical issues,” Sebastian said. “However, these systems are still underutilized in the behavioral health space. We’re excited to pioneer Bridge and demonstrate the ways that our team members innovate and embrace technology to serve our clients when and where they need us.”
More information about the Bridge system be found at Compass Health’s dedicated webpage at www.compasshealth.org/telehealth. For those interested in learning more about Compass Health’s community efforts or supporting their vision for whole person health, visit www.compasshealth.org.
About Compass Health
Compass Health is Northwest Washington’s behavioral healthcare leader. A community-based healthcare agency, Compass Health integrates behavioral health and medical care services to form a key section of the community safety net and serve clients and others in need of care and support. From comprehensive mental health treatment to crisis prevention and intervention, supportive housing, children’s services, community education and much more, the non-profit organization serves people of all ages throughout Snohomish, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Whatcom counties.