Behavioral Health patients arriving at East Orange General Hospital's Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services may find themselves "face-to-face" with a doctor sooner than they expected thanks to an innovative use of technology known as Telepsychiatry. Telepsychiatry is the use of state-of-the-art audio and video telecommunications equipment to deliver psychiatric care when the patient and practitioner are at different locations. As of 2011 this application of Telemedicine has been the most successful to date.
Started at East Orange General within the last few months, the use of two-way, secure videoconferencing allows patients to talk to and be assessed by an off-site psychiatrist in real time. The use of Telepsychiatry reduces patient wait time and the cost of mental health care while allowing doctors the opportunity to evaluate and determine the immediate needs of patients. With 77 patients seen to date, the videoconferencing has produced positive outcomes.
The rising demand for behavioral health services in Essex County combined with a national shortage of hospital-based psychiatrists prompted EOGH officials to launch the service. "So far the use of an interactive video link has proven to be a win-win for both the patients, the psychiatrists and the hospital," said East Orange General's Behavioral Health Services Medical Director Kathy Rivera, MD, FAPA. "The off-site trained telepsych doctor is able to determine sooner what treatment the patient may need next, while the patient's wait time for that care is significantly reduced."