Development of a Child and Adolescent Tele-Partial Hospitalization Program (tele-PHP) in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic prevented a group-based partial hospitalization program (PHP) from running in-person care due to social distancing guidelines. However, the crisis also simultaneously increased stress on families while decreasing their desire to hospitalize youth for a nonmedical issue. Hence, the need for a PHP remained high. Health care organizations worked diligently to create a secure telehealth platform (tele-PHP) to be delivered to patients in their home environments. This article describes the development and implementation of child and adolescent tele-PHPs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These new programs were started in mid-March 2020, and changes were implemented over the next 3 to 4 weeks. Overall, patients and families have been receptive to behavioral health services delivered through telemedicine. While tele-PHPs are the most plausible solution to continue behavioral health care for these patients, some challenges were observed during this process. Besides procedural and technological challenges associated with creating a virtual setup, other difficulties include variable patient engagement, specific treatment-related challenges, and system-related changes. These challenges are addressed through psychoeducation, provision of online measures to assess treatment outcomes, and efforts to optimize parent engagement prior to treatment initiation for better treatment adherence. Initial experiences during a time of crisis suggest that tele-PHP services can be a viable long-term treatment option in the future during both a disaster and routine times to improve access for those who otherwise cannot take advantage of such services. Long-term effectiveness of these interventions still needs to be explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20m02743
JournalPrimary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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