Telemedicine shortens ER waits and reduces admissions in SC

A statewide telepsychiatry consulting service in South Carolina shortened emergency department stays and reduced hospital admissions for more than 6,000 mental health patients. Those patients also used outpatient psychiatric services more, and their care was less expensive, said Dr. Stephanie R. Chapman at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

Under the program, psychiatrists assess emergency department patients remotely via live video link. So far, 25 hospitals – none of which have readily available onsite psychiatric consulting services – are participating; the South Carolina Department of Mental Health plans to enroll 15 more within a year, according to Dr. Chapman, a psychiatry resident at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

"In our state, we have so many mental health patients who are not receiving the care they need in the emergency room. A lot of facilities have no psychiatrists working in them. Someone has to drive in days later to see these patients," she said. "It’s a big problem. That is why this was initially implemented" in March 2009, she said.

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05-26-2011 10:35 (EDT)