Hospital Systems Turn to Telehealth for Mental Health Care

Hospital systems of all sizes increasingly use video consults for mental health care.

According to Healthcare IT News, hospitals report high patient satisfaction and other benefits from the provision of mental health services via telehealth.  Hospitals are successfully using this approach with patients of all ages, from children to seniors.

Illini Community Hospital uses three robots to provide tele-mental health care via off-site psychiatrists to patients in its 10-bed geriatric unit. The Illini program has earned a 99 percent patient satisfaction score from Press Ganey.

“Surprisingly, most of the geriatric psych patients are very comfortable with the robot because they remember the cartoon TV show The Jetsons,” Illini CEO Kathy Hull said. She noted that getting patients engaged and comfortable prior to the remote visit is key.

The telebehavioral health program at Healthcare Corporation of America (HCA) dwarfs that of Illini Community Hospital, but reports similar positive results.

Last year HCA conducted more than 17,000 telebehavioral health visits using psychologists, LCSWs, and psychiatrists. Some doctors report that psychotic patients actually focus better on the monitor screen than in person, according to Jonathan White, HCA’s assistant vice president of patient access and referral management.

More importantly, remote provision of mental health consults lowers the health risk and costs associated with mental health emergencies, both of which rise sharply when a psychiatric patient waits longer than four hours in an emergency department.

“Our reporting shows that patients are seen faster and do much better – at a significantly lower cost – using telebehavioral technology,” White said.

Click here for the HealthcareITNews.com article on the growth of telebehavioral health services in hospital systems.

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