Remote psychiatry by videoconference

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US healthcare specialists ValueOptions is using Verizon Telehealth Collaboration Services to securely offer cost-effective tele-psychiatry to residents of Immokalee, Florida., a remote community tucked in the headwaters of the Everglades. Immokalee, in Collier County on the west coast of Florida, is a rural agricultural community 30 miles east of Naples. Nearly half the residents of this largely migrant population live below the poverty line and many struggle daily accessing adequate healthcare due to language barriers, transportation issues and childcare. Providing the same timely access to psychiatric services as the individuals living in the more urban Naples area has been a challenge.

But that’s no longer the case. ValueOptions chose the David Lawrence Center, the Collier County community-based mental health center with offices in Naples and Immokalee, to provide real-time consultations between clinical specialists and those in need of services. The remote consultations are enabled by high-definition video conferencing units deployed by Verizon Business. “The consumer won’t have to travel far from home to keep an appointment,” said Pat Glynn, vice president of ValueOptions® Florida operation. “This arrangement tosses aside the usual obstacles for seeking care, such as transportation issues as well as the resistance to seek treatment.” “The beauty of this set-up is that the consumer won’t have to worry about the technology,” Glynn said. “He or she won’t even have to have home internet service. We provide everything, including setting up the equipment, in a secure and private environment, which may include the patient’s home.”

In a similar pilot program with school children in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, ValueOptions has seen the number of kept appointments more than double after tele-psychiatry became available. The audio and visual signals have been so strong that clinicians can still observe mannerisms and non-verbal signs. One user said it was like “sitting across the table” from the therapist. “Over the coming months,” Glynn said, “ValueOptions plans to work with Verizon Business to deploy more tele-health units across the nation, as well as equip mobile practitioners with video conferencing-enabled laptops to pilot an in-home program.”

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