In late 2010, the Albemarle Hospital Foundation received a grant from the Duke Endowment (TDE) for the implementation of telepsychiatry in the Emergency Departments of Vidant Health hospitals. The project established telepsychiatry in seven of those facilities in 2011, and has expanded in 2012 to include the two newest Vidant hospitals, as well as offering services to non-Vidant hospitals.
The project emerged as a result of high Emergency Department (ED) admissions related to behavioral health issues, and extended length of stays (LOS) in the ED, ranging from many hours to multiple days. The result were increased expenses for hospitals and patients experiencing long delays in receiving specialized mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Under the Vidant Health/TDE Project, mobile video conferencing units were placed in the participating hospitals and desk top video conferencing systems were placed at the psychiatric practice that performs the patient consults/assessments. The practice, Coastal Carolina Neuropsychiatric Center (CCNC), is located in Jacksonville, NC, and was selected as the psychiatric contractor because of the agency’s experience, capacity, and record of quality psychiatric service delivery.
The early outcomes of the project look very promising. One of the biggest early successes has been the reduction in patient lengths of stay. The initial goal for the project was to reduce patient lengths of stay in the ED to less than 48 hours. Since the implementation of telepsychiatry, the average patient length of stay for the seven participating hospitals has been reduced to 22 hours. Another early outcome which has a significant potential to reduce state costs associated with inpatient psychiatric treatment is the reduction of unnecessary involuntary committed patients. Since the inception of the telepsychiatry program, 87 involuntary commitments have been overturned — rough calculations (based on a per diem state psychiatric facility inpatient rate of $1,080 and a five day inpatient treatment stay) indicate a probable savings of $469,800.
Questions about this project or interest in joining the telepsychiatry network may be directed to:
Sheila F. Davies
Albemarle Hospital Foundation
P.O. Box 1412
Elizabeth City, NC 27906