COASTLAND TIMES – December, 19 2013
Patrick Detwiler | Director, Marketing/Public Relations Albemarle Hospital
Telepsychiatry is paving the way for how patients and psychiatrists interact, and Albemarle Hospital is leading North Carolina’s effort to make psychiatric care readily available and cost-effective for patients.
The first telepsychatry program in North Carolina began at Albemarle Hospital on May 2, 2011. Phil Donahue, former vice president of Albemarle Hospital Foundation and Community Outreach, recognized the need for specialized psychiatric care in the emergency room. With the help of Sheila Davies, former project director for Albemarle Hospital Foundation, the program has become so successful it will now be available to any North Carolina hospital through a $4 million grant from the Mental Health Legislative Oversight Committee of NC.
Telepsychiatry provide phychiatric care patients the option to video conference with a psychiatrist in another part of the state. The Albemarle Hospital program offers patients in the ER, as well as in-patients, real-time psychiatric help.
Because of a shortage of mental health providers in our area prior to the program patients sometimes waited hours or even days for treatment, elevating the risk of becoming a danger to themselves (even suicidal) or others. Currently, 18 hospitals in NC are using the program, which has reduced patient length of stay as well as 30-day remission rates.
The program is not just helping patients – tax payers and physicians are benefiting as well. Previously, when a patient had to be transported to a state facility to receive proper psychiatric care, the sheriff’s department was required to provide transportation and incur overtime costs for the officers assisting with the move, costing taxpayers and creating unnecessary upheaval for the already delicate situation. The program has also helped participating providers, filling unscheduled time slots and openings created by no-show patients, making them more efficient and productive.
As the program expands, Donahue and Davies will continue to help implement it at any NC hospital requesting the program.
“We are excited about the opportunity to help hospitals across North Carolina deliver quality telepsychiatry services, says Donahue. “Through our partnerships with Easy Carolina University, the NC Department of Health and Human Services and the Duke Endowment, we feel we can make a positive contribution to improving mental health outcomes for the citizens of our state.”
Fifty-five NC hospitals are already signed-up on the project waiting list, according to Davies, and her hope is to provide all patients with the opportunity to receive immediate psychiatric care at every hospital by June 2015.
Albemarle Health is Northeastern North Carolina’s largest regional health and wellness provider. Facilities include: Albemarle Hospital, a full-service medical center in Elizabeth City, featuring critical care, diagnostic imaging, surgical and cardiovascular services, and comprehensive women’s care; Regional Medical Center, in Kitty Hawk, which houses an outpatient surgery center, laboratory, diagnostic imaging services, and offices for multiple physicians specialists; Regional Oncology Center, a state of the art cancer treatment facility located on the campus of Albemarle Hospital; and the Albemarle Health Sleep Center, in Elizabeth City.
Albemarle Health offers primary care through Island Medical Center, in Manteo, and the Albemarle Hospital Foundation Community Care Clinic in Elizabeth City provides primary care and prescription services to the uninsured of Camden, Currituck, and Pasquotank counties.