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Serving Southwest Wisconsin Through Telehealth

From Rick Peterson, Community Resource Director

I recently presented at the HRSA “Rural Outreach Partnership” grantee national conference in Rockville, MD. An estimated 120 grantees from across the country came together to share lessons learned from their projects. As part of the Community Based Support for Behavioral Health Programs panel, I was able to share the challenges and successes encountered in the development and implementation of our Mental Health through Telemedicine initiative.

The Mental Health through Telemedicine initiative is made up of a consortium including Crossing Rivers Health, Crawford County Human Services, Richland County Health and Human Services.

Patients are now able to meet with a Psychiatrist via our telemedicine system at each of these sites. It was a great opportunity to learn from other grantees and share what we have accomplished to date. Collectively, we anticipate saving approximately $90,000 annually by reducing physician travel expenses. In addition, we are seeing a significant reduction in patient wait times between appointments due to the new technology.

Early 1970s – Dr. Irving Bush, Chairman Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, Department of Urology, is seen talking to a patient. Although he is some distance away from the patient, Dr. Bush communicates with her through one of the video telephones, part of a 10-station Illinois Bell picture phone system in the urology department. Dr. Bush says he has found that talking over this system gives most patients the feeling the doctor is with them exclusively, that he is not hurried, and that he is concerned about them. In conjunction with the ·usual "hands on" care, the TV phone system has received great acceptance by the patient, according to Dr. Bush.

The above photo features our current telehealth system. The use of mobile carts has allowed all sites to be more efficient.

Telehealth is a clinical resource that uses video equipment and online technology to conduct a live consultation with a remote specialty physician. Seeing a provider virtually, via telehealth, is a convenience for patients,reducing time and cost spent traveling to appointments. It also offers more options to schedule an appointment with a specialist at your local clinic. Most importantly, patients receive timely, quality care that is equivalent to a face-to-face consultation with a physician.

Benefits of Telebehavioral Health

  • Easier and quicker way to see a specialist.
  • Patients don’t have to travel long distances to “see” a behavioral health specialist. They can receive services at the same office where they see their primary care provider.
  • Using special cameras and equipment, the behavioral health provider can “see and talk” with the patient and the care team.
  • The primary care provider and behavioral health provider can share the patient’s medical information to provide the best treatment possible.
  • Patients receive greater continuity of care because the primary care provider stays involved.
  • The Behavioral Health provider will assess, develop a treatment plan and begin treatment shortly after receiving the referral.