Telepsychiatry project addresses S.C. mental health
An innovative telemedicine project in South Carolina could point the way toward improved outcomes for patients with mental illness who seek treatment in emergency rooms.
Meera Narasimhan, a professor and interim chair of the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at USC's School of Medicine, and Benjamin Druss from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University are using a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to rigorously study the impact of a novel intervention program that provides 24-hour psychiatric coverage at emergency departments across the state.
Their study is exploring the outcomes of Partners in Behavioral Health Emergency Services, a telemedicine initiative funded by the Duke Endowment that delivers care to vulnerable mental health patients in emergency room settings.
Narahiman’s and Druss’ assessment of the telemedicine program—which involves collaboration between the S.C. Department of Mental Health and the S.C. Hospital Association—is focused on optimizing outcomes (biological and psychosocial) and sustainability of the program within South Carolina, and also understanding the contextual factors that might allow the program to be disseminated to other states.
The Telepsychiatry Initiative has been successfully implemented at 17 rural and urban hospitals across the state with several more in the wings. Thus far, 3,300 consultations have been provided with results that are “very encouraging and include decreased length of stay and costs, and improved rates of follow-up,” Narahimsan said. “South Carolina is a leader in using innovative approaches to address some of the unmet needs in mental health care that our nation faces.”
The project was recently featured in National Mental Health Weekly.