National Alliance on Mental Illness
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October 12, 2006

Telemedicine Expands Access to Treatment

Video communication may fill a gap in areas where psychiatrists are few and far between

Psychiatrists are increasingly using video communication to treat patients in rural areas, according to a recent report by the Associated Press published in USA Today.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, there are no figures on the number of doctors who actually use telemedicine, which may include video or telephone appointments. However, ValueOptions, a health care company, offers telepsychiatry under government contracts in six states, according to the AP story.

In Georgia, Blue Cross is building a telemedicine network linking rural hospitals and clinics to teaching hospitals. Included in the network are three telepsychiatry centers.

In Nebraska, Medicaid reform proposals have included broader use of telemedicine throughout the state, NAMI noted in its Grading the States report earlier this year.

In Oklahoma, the Northwest Center for Behavioral Health has worked with NAMI Oklahoma to place audio and video connections in three counties for commitment hearings and meetings—resulting in tenfold savings in time and travel costs. The program also has reduced stress for some patients—who sometimes were transported in handcuffs—and enabled staff to spend more time with others.

In Kentucky, the state has established a statewide telephone triage system in jails in order to help screen inmates for mental, cognitive and substance abuse disorders and to provide linkage to treatment. The system is funded by court costs.