Mental health needs were disproportionately high among health care workers before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the rapid spread of the disease forced providers to grapple with additional stressors, including longer shifts, shortages of personal protective equipment, increased mortality and morbidity, and the fear of exposing family members and loved ones upon returning home.
Emerging evidence indicates that more than two-thirds of frontline health care workers battling COVID-19 will experience psychiatric symptoms, including post-traumatic stress, acute anxiety, substance use, depression, and suicide. With this increased need for support, already lacking access to mental health care was sure to decline further.
COBALT is a web-based platform designed to help health care workers access mental health support easily and on their terms. Through a self-assessment, users receive personalized recommendations for support most relevant to their needs.
Resources available to COBALT users include:
- Articles, podcasts, and worksheets,
- Groups focused on mindfulness, election stress, and antiracism,
- One-on-one help from peers, resilience coaches, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists,
- And urgent intervention for those at highest risk for self-harm.
Thanks to embedded scheduling and telehealth capabilities, COBALT provides HIPAA-compliant mental health care at a safe distance. And by leveraging a full spectrum of care, the platform ensures that clinical support is available for those in greatest need.
COBALT is available to all Penn Medicine employees.
In the first 30 days, more than 8,000 sessions were conducted by over 5,000 individuals accessing a wide range of content and virtual support. Six months in, more than 14,000 users have engaged with the platform, there have been over 1,500 appointment bookings, and 111 individuals have identified thoughts of self-harm.
With more than two-thirds of users choosing to log in anonymously, COBALT overcomes concerns about lack of confidentiality and impact on one’s career that interfere with health care professionals seeking support.
The team is currently building on the COBALT platform to provide access to patients as well as exploring partnerships with other health systems to support front line workers beyond Penn Medicine.