applications because its practitioners don’t need to touch their patients to treat them. We have found Web-based video conferencing to be an effective service-delivery method.” The term “cloud comput- ing” refers to on-demand services provided over the Internet, using hardware and software located at the ven- dor’s location rather than at the customer’s location. It
would, for example, completely eliminate the need for CarePartners of Georgia to purchase the $12,000 endpoints and dedicated T1 line. In addition, the on-demand service makes it easier for customers because they don’t have to maintain the servers and other sophisticated equipment. They just have to install a small application on their PCs. In addition, cloud computing offers substantial business and technical benefi ts, including increased performance and scal- ability, and the simplicity and reduced maintenance associ- ated with buying complex applications as online services. CarePartners of Georgia fi rst met with Secure Telehealth in October 2010 and went live during the fi rst week of December 2010.
“Having a video conferencing system in place improved our ability to successfully recruit a child psychologist to work with our rural populations,” says Crooke. “The kids seem to like the technology and are comfortable with it.” With only a standard PC, off-the-shelf Webcam and Internet connection, CarePartners of Georgia psychologists and physicians can now conduct assessments, therapy and medical checks securely from any location, including their professional offi ces or homes. The Nefsis cloud automati- cally secures the video conference with encryption, ensur- ing that CarePartners of Georgia complies with HIPAA requirements.
“Our budget to get the project started was $800 out of pocket since we already had one PC available to use. We purchased an additional PC, two Logitech 9000 Webcams and two Phoenix Duet microphones from Amazon. We did decide to invest in an additional Internet connection, at $60 per month, because the existing DSL service was unreliable at one of the remote locations,” says Crooke. Once the equipment was in place, the organization just needed to download a small software application to each PC. As a result, there were no set up fees, and even the staff training was done using video conferencing.
Benefi ts of telepsychiatry for the community With two separate clinics set up for video conferencing, the rural communities in Georgia began to see immediate, positive results. Families needed to travel just 30 minutes or less to a local clinic and could be seen at any time, even during a crisis. Video conferencing also eliminated the need for children to wait up to six months to get an initial assess-
ment. Once in treatment, follow-up appointments could be scheduled weekly, which helped to enhance program retention rates. Scheduling appointments also became far easier. Most important, telepsychiatry enhanced the community’s crisis-response capacity. Previously, during a behavioral health crisis, children would have to go to their local emergency room and wait three to four hours to be seen by a physician. Now, in emergencies, a child psychiatrist can be called upon through video conferencing – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – and assess if the child needs to seek hospitalization.
Previously, during a behavioral health crisis, children would have to go to their local emergency room and wait three to four hours to be seen by a physician. Now, in emergencies, a child psychiatrist can be called upon through video conferencing – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – and assess if the child needs to seek hospitalization.
Prior to the solution, the costs associated with the daily travel ate up a huge portion of the organization’s budget, and those costs were not reimbursable by Medicaid. As a result of implementing the video conferencing service, CarePart- ners of Georgia is able to run far more effi ciently. “With Secure Telehealth, our overhead to provide psychiatric services has drastically dropped, and we have been able to increase our revenue by providing additional services to the community,” says Kathy Durden, COO of CarePartners of Georgia. “We have become a much more effi cient organization with telepsychiatry and are looking to expand our mental health services to other rural communi- ties in Georgia. Since Secure Telehealth/Nefsis is an online managed service, it is automatically maintained and easier to expand as we grow without the fi nancial risk of making a hardware investment.” In the fi rst six months of implementing cloud-based video conferencing, CarePartners of Georgia realized a 350 percent return on its minimal investment in the technology. Adds Durden, “Telepsychiatry can expand any organization’s capacity to serve its members. For rural behavioral health providers, our clinical bottom line is measured by enhancing access to services, improving service continuity and increas- ing service retention. I think the ROI and our 95 percent member satisfaction rate for the service indicates that so far, telepsychiatry is exceeding all expectations in those three areas and is greatly helping our organization in terms of clinical effectiveness and effi cacy.”
HMT HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY August 2011 29