By Firas A. Nakshabandi, M.D.
Since 2015 our vision has always been to incorporate technology into our integrative and holistic treatment model. In line with this vision we have been actively advocating for and delivering services via telehealth since our inception. While not meant to be an absolute replacement for in-person treatment and assessment, there are a myriad of advantages telehealth has to offer over in-person treatment, including first and foremost accessibility. Other factors such as privacy and convenience as well as high patient satisfaction have made this modality of delivering services not only highly effective but also extremely popular among patients who have access to this option. It is also extremely important to note numerous studies have refuted claims that telehealth results in “sub-par” care in and of itself.
Whether due to geographical location or various other circumstances, there was always a major potential role for remote treatment, especially considering the latest advances in internet based interactive audio/video telecommunication systems. Unfortunately, due to the current unprecedented global pandemic, telepsychiatry has been catapulted from being a convenient option to an indispensable necessity.
Through our efforts and the efforts of many of our colleagues who have been advocating for telehealth, we have for now succeeded in facilitating an Executive Order signed by Governor JB Pritzker compelling insurance companies to reimburse for telehealth services. Prior to this crisis insurance companies seldom reimbursed for telehealth visits, and where other states have passed parity laws ensuring telehealth visits are reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits are, this is still not the case in the state of Illinois.
We encourage our patients and the general public to continue to write to their elected officials to lobby for parity laws ensuring that we all continue to benefit from telehealth services even after the pandemic is over by ensuring that insurance companies are compelled to reimburse for telehealth at the same rate as in-person visits.
We are proud to have been pioneers in offering telepsychiatry as an option since our inception, and while the topic of the effects of this pandemic on empathy will likely be the subject of much study and debate for years to come, we remain more committed than ever to delivering the same high quality, empathy oriented services that we have become proudly known for during these hardest of times. In line with our vision, one thing remains unchanged regardless of the pandemic: we are all in this together.