Telehealth Must Adapt to the Trauma of COVID-19 Pandemic


The current pandemic has been trauma-inducing for many and telehealth needs to rise to the occasion.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to the rapid expansion of telehealth use, prompting a need for new guidelines to be established in order to address patient trauma, according to a study published in Federal Practitioner.

COVID-19 has been a traumatizing experience for many people, according to the press release. That trauma has disproportionately affected those with past trauma exposure and mental health conditions. Although social distancing protects communities, it may also amplify isolation and danger in abusive relationships or make underlying mental illnesses worse, according to the study.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine sought to determine how to best apply the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) principles of trauma-informed care. The principles are safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment, voice and choice, and sensitivity to cultural, historical, and gender issues. According to the researchers, these principles can be used to help mitigate the isolating and traumatic effect of the pandemic.

The study authors found that the public health approach may result in trauma and re- traumatization for patient, which clinicians should be mindful of. Health care providers should deliver their care with sensitivity, as trauma is “unseen, unmeasured, and unnamed” the study authors wrote. Telehealth sessions should promote connection, equity, and healing.

"Clinicians have a unique opportunity during this pandemic to apply trauma-informed care principles early on and to envision how telehealth may contribute to a more meaningful care experience for all and a more equitable future for those we care for," study co-author and Medical Director of Women's Health at VA Boston Healthcare System, Megan R. Gerber, MD, MPH, said in the press release.

Trauma-informed virtual care also has the ability to expand the continuity of medical care, according to the press release. Researchers found that it may enhance not only patient resiliency, but clinician resiliency as well.


New study outlines best practices for delivering care via telehealth (News Release), Boston, MA, July 9, 2020, EuerkAlert!, accessed July 15, 2020

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