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The Clinical Divide: Leveraging Telemedicine to Treat Mental Health


How can health executives and physicians leverage telemedicine to help treat patients with mental health issues?

Finding high-quality mental healthcare can be challenging — it doesn’t matter if a patient lives in a rural or urban area. The biggest problem today with assessing mental health is simple — there just are too many patients out there who need assistance and mental health services, and not enough experts who are available to treat them. How can we as CEOs and M.D.s leverage telemedicine to help treat that particular underserved and understaffed population? We need to leverage technology — that’s the answer.

Welcome to the Clinical Divide. I’m Dr. Kevin Campbell, a Duke-trained cardiologist and CEO of the health data startup PaceMate. Every week, this Healthcare Analytics News™ video series examines medicine and technology’s top news. I bring the views that help physicians and healthcare executives bridge the clinical divide.

An estimated one in five adults in the U.S. today experiences mental health illness in a given year. And the number of primary care physicians who are traditionally the first responders and gatekeepers in treating patients with behavioral health needs is in steady decline. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer medical students are choosing primary care careers. Even fewer are choosing to become mental health experts — going into psychiatry and other things of that sort. According to Mental Health America, in states where the lowest numbers of mental health providers exist, there was almost four times the number of individuals with significant mental health needs to only one mental health provider. No one can get that job done singlehandedly.

>> WATCH: The Clinical Divide: New Year, Similar Healthcare Trends?

However, telemedicine, I believe, can help. When administered properly, telebehavioral health can often offer immediate relief and elevate care in urgent and acute care settings. Telehealth platforms can connect patients to professionals that can help them. They can discuss medications. They can discuss lifestyle. They can discuss life stressors and other contributing factors to someone’s mental state. They can offer support. They can assess the status of an at-risk mental health patient and get them the help they need much faster than the current system.

In fact, the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, serves over 250,000 children — most of these children live in very rural areas in the state. Using telepsychiatry, the system has reduced follow-up no show rates by 50 percent and have one psychiatrist providing care to over 600 patients in the program’s first year alone.

These programs can be extremely beneficial for children and adults. With the lack of mental health professionals out there to help, it is time for telemedicine to be taken to the next level. We as healthcare executives and physicians need to talk together and work with our IT (information technology) experts to implement this technology into our healthcare systems so that we can expand our reach and help our patients improve their quality of life. Mental health issues and suicide rates are at an all-time high in the U.S. It’s time that we do everything we can to help. We must embrace technology as a way to help those in need and make a difference for those at the highest risk.

Thank you again for joining me for this episode of the Clinical Divide. Until next week, I’m Dr. Kevin Campbell, for Healthcare Analytics News™.

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