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New Telehealth Platform Offers Grief Counseling to Military Survivors

Salus Telehealth is partnering with a national non-profit to give families of U.S. Armed Forces members killed in service mHealth access to grief counselors, behavioral health counselors and physicians.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A telehealth vendor is partnering with a national support network to offer digital health grief counseling for families of military members who are killed while serving.

The non-profit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is partnering with Salus Telehealth of Waycross, Ga., to create the unique telehealth program, which gives grieving family members access to counselors, therapists or primary care clinicians through Salus’ VideoMedicine video-conferencing platform, available on mobile devices.

The service adds to the rich assortment of therapy and behavioral health solutions now available via digital health channels, one of the fastest-growing in the telehealth ecosystem.

“VideoMedicine has already proven to be a valuable resource for TAPS,” Zaneta Gileno, director of community-based care and professional education for Arlington, Va.-based TAPS, launched in 1994, said in a press release. “Our mission is to offer assistance to those struggling with grief through a national support network. VideoMedicine creates access to counselors through video conferencing that was not possible even a few years ago.”

“There are many reasons our members would opt to use this platform,” Gileno added, “and we are happy we found a partner dedicated to making it as accessible and flexible as possible.”

“Our hope is that individuals who have suffered the loss of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces will be able to utilize our platform to receive counseling in the most accessible and convenient way possible,” added Paul Guy, CEO of Salus Telehealth, a commercial business that was spun out of the non-profit Georgia Partnership for Telehealth in 2015. “We are also happy that we can allow users to invite their own providers to use VideoMedicine, so that they maintain the comfort level and familiarity that is right for them.”

Salus added mHealth capabilities to its telehealth and remote monitoring platform in 2016 in a merger with Chicago-based VideoMedicine, giving customers the opportunity to connect with clinicians and specialists through a mobile app. The platform is consumer-facing as well as available to providers, payers, accountable care networks and businesses on a subscription basis.

While telehealth giants like American Well, Teladoc and MDLIVE offer national platforms for telepsychiatry and mental health counseling services, some of the smaller players in the market are targeting niches like universities and colleges, counseling for children and grief counseling. The platform is attractive because it can be discrete, giving patients and family members the freedom to gain access from their own homes or another quiet location, rather than going to an office or clinic.

In some cases, like universities, the platform helps people who might shy away from a more structured counseling service because they don’t feel they need professional help.

“Students are dealing with a myriad of issues, and often they don’t even think about it in terms of mental health,” says Joe Conrad, a Colorado State University alumnus and founder of Grit Digital Health, which launched its first digital health counseling platform in 2016. “What we wanted was a solution that really met students where they are … and allowed them to find what they need.”

“They’re accustomed to having mobile devices,” he added. “This is anonymous, it’s available to them 24/7, and it’s something they can access very quickly in a safe and secure location.”

According to the American Telemedicine Association, which issued its first nationwide report card on telemental health services in 2016, 49 state Medicaid programs now reimburse for such services, while 30 states and the District of Columbia mandate that private payers provide coverage regardless of the delivery method.


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