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Telepsychiatry in the cloud

Reaching rural communities in underserved markets. By Tom Toperczer, Nefsis


n 2001, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities made a commitment to privatizing the movement to ensure that children and young adults between the ages of 4 and 22 requiring mental health services could be served in their home com- munities. This was a relatively easy problem to address for children living in the inner cities, but it was far more complicated for rural populations, where children are at the highest risk of being removed from their communities and placed in a stabilization or residential program somewhere else in the state. CarePartners of Georgia, a community- based behavioral healthcare provider, pro- vides services to public-sector children in a rural fi ve-county service area. Each of these remote com- munities, designated as a health professional shortage area (HPSA), is within 90 miles of Macon, Savannah or Augusta. Because of the diffi culty of recruiting psychologists and healthcare professionals to work in these areas, CarePartners of Georgia staff would drive children and their families to one of the three cities – up to 90 miles each way – for their scheduled psychiatric appointments, typically every six to eight weeks. Paying staff to drive up to fi ve hours each day for one appointment, along with very high gas and vehicle maintenance costs, created multiple barriers to improving patient care.

About two years ago, CarePartners of Georgia explored telepsychiatry as a way to increase effi ciency, reduce travel costs and improve the process of providing care, but the organization found that to set up a hardware-based video conferencing system, it would need to purchase at least two endpoints at $12,000 each. It would also need to pay for an expensive dedicated T1 line to connect them plus licensing fees.

“The technology at the time was cost prohibitive for our 28 August 2011

David Crooke, CEO, and Kathy Durden, COO, of CarePartners of Georgia.

“Telepsychiatry is an effective way to provide access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas,” says Jim Mountain, president of Secure Telehealth.

small organization,” says David Crooke, CEO of CarePart- ners of Georgia.

About nine months ago, however, Crooke came across Se-

cure Telehealth, a Pittsburgh-based company that provides a complete, Web-based, secure platform for telepsychiatry over the Internet. Secure Telehealth partners with Nefsis, a cloud-based video conferencing service. “Telepsychiatry is an effective way to provide access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas,” says Jim Mountain, president of Secure Telehealth. “It has become one of the most successful of all the telemedicine


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