Tele-Psychiatry Improves Care and Access for DLC Patients in Immokalee

January 1st, 2011

A six month Tele-Psychiatry Pilot Project by ValueOptions®, the nation’s largest independent behavioral health care company who manages the Collier County pre-paid Medicaid contract for child and adult services, and David Lawrence Center (DLC) has proved that communication technology can bring doctors, therapists and patients together virtually to increase accessibility, eliminate barriers to seeking treatment, improve care and reduce costs.

The pilot levered Verizon Telehealth Collaboration Services who utilized high-definition video conferencing units to transfer an encrypted, signal over an ordinary broadband Internet connection through a secure IP-based network login. This set up enabled a psychiatrist at the Center’s main campus in Naples to conduct a live, HIPAA-compliant tele-psychiatry visit with a patient 35 miles away at the The psychiatrist’s high-resolution screen provides a full- or split-screen view of the patient, while an interface to DLC’s electronic medical records system on a nearby desktop computer enables the doctor to update patient records, make progress notes, or e-prescribe. In Immokalee, the patient’s unit shows a similar, crystal-clear view of the psychiatrist.

Prior to the pilot, DLC relied on a handful of Spanish and Creole speaking staff from Naples to travel to Immokalee to provide medication management and outpatient therapy. Clients now have immediate access to doctors four days a week rather twice a month. Implementing tele-psychiatry has helped control costs by enabling many details of service at Immokalee to now be performed by case managers or support staff. In addition, the technology has expanded the different specialties available at the remote location. Following an initial, in-person evaluation, the treatment team can now consider who the best clinical and medical staff person is company-wide to treat each case.

By resolving access issues to rural areas like Immokalee, DLC has improved the likelihood that patients will receive the care they need, when they need it, resulting in more preventative and efficient treatment. And they will be less likely to resort to more costly hospital emergency room visits and inpatient care. The program has been so successful ValueOptions® has extended the pilot pending Medicaid’s final approval to reimburse providers nationwide for tele-psychiatry visits.

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