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Telepsychiatry Services Enhance Patient Care

Service is available throughout most of the UH system

UH Clinical Update - June 2018

Telepsychiatry offers an efficient and convenient way to provide psychiatric services when and where they are needed – especially when a healthcare system has grown as much as UH has and now offers 18 Emergency Department locations throughout our region.

Telepsychiatry is another way that UH is harnessing technology to enhance the care provided to patients, and making that care more widely available in our region. The program was piloted at UH Parma Medical Center and UH Ahuja Medical Center, then expanded to other UH medical centers and Emergency Departments in November 2016. Now, telepsychiatry is available throughout the UH system, with the exception of UH Samaritan Medical Center and the UH Twinsburg ED. The UH North Ridgeville ED is joining this summer.

Before telemedicine, patients who arrived at UH Emergency Departments with possible psychiatric conditions often waited many hours for a psychiatric evaluation. There often was a backlog of patients, as they waited for in-patient or outpatient placement.

Telehealth allows patients to be evaluated much more quickly, says Lisa Courtot, Manager of the Emergency Psychiatric Access Team at UH Cleveland Medical Center.

The telepsychiatry service works closely with UH Emergency Department physicians. As for any patient, a physical evaluation is done by a clinician at the ED, who may determine that a psychiatric evaluation is warranted. A consult is then ordered and the patient will be seen by a social worker or psychiatrist through a video connection to determine the level of care needed and to make appropriate recommendations for treatment options.

The goal is to provide care to psychiatric patients as soon as possible, in the location that is most appropriate (the right bed), and to avoid admission when not necessary yet still link patients to the care in the community, says Courtot.

A nurse or other clinician will set up the video connection with a psychiatrist or social worker. This can be offered even during off-hours, such as evenings or weekends. The psychiatrist/social worker determines what the next steps should be for the patient and communicates this to the attending physician in the ED who is caring for the patient.

Between May 2017 and April 2018, there have been a total of 989 telepsychiatry consults in UH Emergency Departments.

Research has shown that telepsychiatry leads to improved outcomes and higher patient satisfaction ratings. The American Psychiatric Association supports the use of telemedicine as a legitimate component of a mental health delivery system.