Telehealth Expands Access to Healthcare in Native Communities

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, telehealth became a necessity for many communities across the United States as a means of mitigating the risk of virus transmission and accessing healthcare in a timely manner. Telehealth has expanded access to healthcare in many communities across the country which previously lacked access to such healthcare, including Native communities. On April 8, 2020, the Indian Health Service (IHS) announced an expansion of telehealth across all facilities.

In 2018, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health and Human Services Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration granted more than $50 million to expand access to telehealth programs to help Native communities across the United States and Alaska combat opioid abuse. As Native communities now work to battle opioid abuse and the COVID-19 pandemic, access to telehealth is a greater need than ever before. 

The need for telehealth training has been exploding throughout the country as there has never been such a high demand for virtual medical care. Telehealth has become a powerful tool in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19; utilizing telehealth allows providers to stay protected from this deadly virus while allowing clients access to critical services. Furthermore, COVID-19 spread in rural areas can be detrimental as many rural communities are significant distances from hospitals. Telehealth allows clients to be seen by providers without having to travel such distances while protecting rural communities. 

Recently, Telehealth Certification Institute has established connections with two Native communities. These connections have resulted in a partnership during which we will be certifying 150 Native behavioral health professionals on the competencies pertaining to telehealth using our TeleMental Health Training Certificate program. This course is designed to equip clinicians with practical knowledge on essential telehealth competencies. The Telehealth Certification Institute is excited to partner with these communities to allow increased opportunities for telehealth. 

By: Jessica Sweigert

Resources:

Health and Human Services release, April 8, 2020

mHealthIntelligence, September 27, 2018

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