XFERALL and UHS experts encourage hospitals, health officials and referral sources to prepare now.
AUSTIN, Texas,– As the number of COVID-19 cases begins to flatten across the country, many experts are speculating about a second wave of illness that will stress the health systems this fall as the country enters into the normal flu season. However, other experts are warning of a second wave of medical crisis caused by COVID-19 that is happening now and strengthening quickly: the behavioral health surge.
Xferall, a leading mobile application that automates the process of transferring acute and behavioral patients to inpatient psychiatric facilities, and Universal Health Services, Inc., one of the most respected providers of hospital and healthcare services with approximately 200 behavioral health facilities nationwide, urges medical professionals, referral sources and outreach organizations to act now to prepare for this swell.
There is a lot of evidence that supports XFERALL’s and UHS’s call for action. Suicide hotlines, including the federal crisis line Disaster Distress Hotline, have reported an increase of over 800 percent in calls since the pandemic started. A new national report detailing the psychological impacts of COVID-19 released by the Well Being Trust (WBT) and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care project an additional 75,000 Americans could die due to “diseases of despair” (suicide, alcohol and drug overdoses) due to the COVID-19 crisis. As Chuck Ingoglia, president of the National Council for Behavioral Health, has publicly stated, “This is the greatest crisis to ever hit community mental-health and addiction-treatment providers.”
However, concern lies with the fact that fewer acute behavioral health patients have been seeking help at the hospitals due to COVID-19 fears. “We have seen a reduction of approximately 15 percent in patients who have transferred from hospital Emergency Rooms to inpatient behavioral health hospitalization since the start of the pandemic,” states Shana Palmieri, CCO for XFERALL. “In a time of a crisis, where personal lives are being impacted you expect to see an increase in patients presenting to hospitals in distress, but the opposite is happening. It’s concerning to us that as stay-at-home restrictions lift and the curve flattens, hospitals and doctors’ offices will be inundated with these patients.”
Experts at UHS agree. “Individuals with current mental health issues may be fearful to seek professional help in the community at this time. These individuals may already be struggling to function on a daily basis. Add in new struggles exaggerated by the current COVID-19 situation, such as a job loss, problems with loved ones, or increased anxiety and individuals in recovery from addiction may be more tempted to drink or use again, leading to relapse. As the pandemic subsides, we are ready to meet a massive pent-up demand for behavioral health services and support,” says Ethan Permenter, Divisional VP, Behavioral Health Division of UHS.
Both companies encourage hospitals and health officials as well as employer- and community-based referral sources to put measures in place today that will enable them to better identify and efficiently refer individuals who need help. Hospitals, particularly small, rural, facilities with little to no mental health staff, need to take a hard look at their current patient transfer methods and relationships with nearby inpatient behavioral health facilities. XFERALL’s digital solution facilitates placement of patients into behavioral health treatment in a drastically shortened amount of time, which both enables the mental health patient to get care sooner and helps frontline nurses and doctors decongest their EDs to serve critically ill medical patients in the ER. XFERALL is waiving all implementation fees for hospitals joining their network during this time.
“It’s critical that hospitals prepare for the surge of incoming mental health patients and establish an effective assessment and transfer program now so that patients in need of mental health services get the help they need,” said Permenter. “Our facilities are highly focused on the health and safety of both patients and staff, and the delivery of high-quality patient care. That includes preparation for the wave to come.”
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