In an effort to better serve behavioral health patients who visit WellStar Douglas Hospital’s Emergency Department, the System recently began using innovative technology to offer telemedicine. Provided by the Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth, the Skypetype technology allows psychiatrists at WellStar Cobb Hospital to securely and conveniently evaluate Douglas patients and expedite their discharge.
According to Randy Cook, vice president of Medicine and Behavioral Health, WellStar serves approximately 8,000 behavioral health patients annually through the System’s four emergency departments. At Douglas, no psychiatrists are on site to evaluate the patients and make discharge recommendations. This resulted in patient delays and increased liability risk for the System.
“Now a cart with the telemedicine equipment is rolled into the ED exam room, and a psychiatrist at Cobb can evaluate the patient so discharge plans can be made,” Cook explained.
Steven Lambert, manager, Behavioral Health, Pastoral Care and Volunteer Services for Douglas, said telemedicine will have a huge impact on the ED flow. “We have a high volume of patients – 70,000 annually,” he said. “Through telemedicine, the psychiatrist and ED physician work together on treatment and discharge plans. Before telemedicine, psych patients with complex issues could stay in our ED for days. Now that doesn’t happen.”
Due to the pilot’s success, plans call for telemedicine implementation at WellStar Paulding Hospital, which, like Douglas, does not have on-site psychiatrists.