Dr. Adia Cobb has spent her entire life interested in helping those in need. From volunteer service trips overseas to focusing on underserved populations during medical school, Cobb recognizes the need for building bridges to improve access for those who need it most. Now a bilingual child and adolescent psychiatrist with Regroup, Cobb has worked in a variety of clinical settings, including treating young people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
In this edition of Ask Regroup, Cobb shares how telepsychiatry brings balance to her life and allows her to treat the unique issues facing children and adolescents effectively.
1. What drew you to telepsychiatry?
It fits a want and a need. I’ve always wanted to focus on people who don’t have easy access to care. Telepsychiatry provides a way to work with underserved areas where there’s a shortage of psychiatrists, particularly child psychiatrists. I also needed a better way to find a balance between my personal and professional life. Telepsychiatry has proven to be that better way, and feeling balanced in my personal life makes me a better clinician.
2. How do you address the special considerations in providing behavioral healthcare to young patients through telepsychiatry?
One big consideration with kids is that they really respond to changes in their environment. That can be a powerful tool. Medications have their place in treatment, but sometimes I have other suggestions. Through telepsychiatry, I’m still able to work with the school and the child’s guardians to address those changes. When those resources are available and we work together, you can really see a turnaround in the kids.
3. Where do you feel you’ve had the biggest impact in helping patients?
About half the time I spend talking with patients revolves around education. Patients will sometimes come to me wondering, “What’s wrong with me?” Patient education and explaining that they are not alone can be just as helpful as medication. Some of the biggest impacts I’ve seen come from patients with panic disorders.
When someone has a panic attack, they sometimes feel like they’re dying – like they’re having a heart attack or have trouble breathing. So many of my patients don’t understand what they’re actually experiencing, so being able to explain it and offer solutions that address the symptoms can help. I may provide a short course of medication, but ultimately, it’s more about education and behavioral techniques.
4. How do you collaborate with the on-site staff and patients for the Regroup partners you serve?
The interaction differs slightly from site to site, but there’s always a contact person who is hands-on in the clinic – a nurse, a medical assistant or a patient care navigator. They let me know of any issues, for instance if a patient is running late for an appointment, or they help with areas like learning the organization’s EHR.
For a lot of patients, this is their first time with psychiatry and they’re nervous. They are curious and surprised to see the session is on a screen. If they have initial concerns, I walk them through the process. By the time we’re done, they usually feel more comfortable, and relieved. Once we wrap up the session, the point person comes back in and I offer follow-up information, such as medication changes. It’s very similar to an office setting, we’re just using different forms of communication.
5. How has Regroup helped you to build relationships with the facilities you serve and to do your best work?
Regroup has been really helpful at making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible for me and their partners. They manage workflow issues like double booking and procedures for scheduling certain patients who need to be seen right away. Regroup does the administrative work, so I can devote my time to treating patients. I can focus on my important things, and they can focus on the other important things.
6. What do you enjoy most about your work with Regroup?
I feel like I’m doing something really important. Seeing kids who were suicidal become stabilized is very fulfilling. Many of the places I’m working with have not had access to psychiatry in a really long time, or it’s their first time ever. There’s been a need there, and telepsychiatry allows them to fill that need effectively. Helping people live their best lives, that’s something I can do that’s important.