More than 10,000 telepsychiatry consultations are offered through the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. (DMH) currently provide comprehensive consultations to 23 urban and rural state hospital emergency departments with six additional hospitals being added according to the DMH newsletter, “Mental Health Matters.”
The Telepsychiatry Consultation Program developed by the state DMH requested assistance from The Duke Endowment located in Charlotte North Carolina to develop a statewide telepsychiatry network for all South Carolina hospitals and their operating emergency departments. To date, the program has received more than $6.3 million.
The funding will enable the hospitals to better serve behavioral health patients. The telepsychiatry consultations have increased the quality and timeliness of triage, assessment and initial treatment of patients, reduced the number of individuals and length of stay in emergency departments, and enabled the hospitals to realize financial savings.
In addition, results show:
· An increase in the number of patients receiving comprehensive assessments
· Provides for seamless joint consultations
· Better information available on the substance abuse diagnoses
· An increase in professional staff able to receive training
· A reduction in the cost of mental health care
In all cases, the DMH psychiatrists consult with hospital medical professionals, review requested hospital clinical information, consult with patients using the telepsychiatry video system, and summarize their recommendations in the patient’s EMR. The information in the EMR is then transmitted to the hospital emergency department with a copy of the consultation also sent to the aftercare discharge referral source which is generally the local DMH community mental health center.
Other key partners in addition to the Duke endowment involved in the program include:
- The South Carolina Hospital Association, a private, not-for-profit organization comprised of 130 institutions and 900 associated members working to develop a uniformed credentialing application to be used by telepsychiatrists
- South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services which is the state’s Medicaid agency, is partnering to develop a statewide medical health record and working to increase IT infrastructure
- University of South Carolina School of Medicine and their Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science continues to offer advice. Their telepsychiatry program being conducted is in charge of a large research study funded by NIMH
- The Department of Psychiatry of the Medical University of South Carolina is providing expertise and clinical office space for telepsychiatrists
- Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia are sharing lessons learned from their cardiac telemedicine project
It has been found that the telepscychiatry program has resulted in a net medical cost savings of $1,000 per patient per episode of care. This translated to nearly $10,000,000 in savings in just under three years of the program.