According to the CDC, approximately 146.5 million patients visit hospital emergency departments in the United States each year. Among those seeking emergency care from EDs is a growing number of patients suffering from mental health crises. As COVID-19 rages on, emergency visits related to psychiatric care continue to increase.
So how do emergency departments — who are already grappling with staggering patient numbers — deal with an influx of mental health patients seeking fast access to high-quality psychiatric care while improving patient throughput?
Between the nationwide shortage of psychiatrists, staff burnout, tight budgets, and changing healthcare regulations, many emergency departments and hospitals don’t know where to start. Fortunately, telepsychiatry can help.
In this post, we’ll share how telepsychiatry can improve throughput in EDs and increase access to quality mental health care, patient satisfaction, and hospital cost savings.
How can telepsychiatry help with throughput in the ED?
Hospital emergency departments face numerous obstacles every day in their fight against America’s mental health crisis, including:
- Increase in number of patients presenting with mental illness, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and more behavioral health issues.
- Surge in psychiatric boarding times averaging 8-34 hours.
- Increase in the number of patients in the ER because they can’t get an appointment to see a psychiatrist.
If you’re seeing these common problems day in and day out, you’re not alone.
Telepsychiatry equips hospital EDs with the much-needed ability to quickly provide patients with access to high-quality psychiatric care through a virtual visit. With telepsychiatry, patients no longer need to wait hours to receive treatment from an ED physician or an in-person consultation from a psychiatric provider, which drastically reduces their length of stay in the ED.
What’s more, telepsychiatry helps ease the stress on attending ED physicians and staff by providing them with top-notch psychiatry providers who can quickly assess, treat, and disposition your patients — freeing your ED team up to focus on treating patients who come in for medical and surgical needs.
However, before officially launching your telepsychiatry program into your ED, make sure you’ve worked through any barriers or misconceptions around telepsychiatry within your organization.
Three common barriers to telepsychiatry in the ED
1. Technology barriers
The most common objection to implementing telepsychiatry into the ED is the fear of not knowing how to use the technology correctly, as well as a lack of fluency in technology. In most cases, questions tend to arise about the equipment needed for telepsychiatry consultations, such as where it will be located and who will be responsible for coordinating the machine. By partnering with a telepsychiatry vendor like Iris Telehealth, we act as a technology-agnostic addition to your team by integrating seamlessly into your current systems and equipment you’re already using. While we try to limit the use of any new systems and equipment, we ensure all staff are trained on best practices for using technology and are comfortable with it.
2. Misconceptions about telepsychiatry
A common misconception about telepsychiatry in the ED is that it isn’t as effective as in-person treatment. However, telepsychiatry can be just as effective as in-person treatment. A telepsychiatrist, in collaboration with on-call staff, is able to assess patients, manage risks, and create a treatment plan to properly treat patients — just like an in-person visit. Throughout the consultation, the telepsychiatry process is thoroughly explained to the patient to ensure they understand the consultation is virtual. Upon consent from the patient, telepsychiatry services are initiated.
3. Changing ED culture
Another tough objection is getting staff on board with telepsychiatry in the ED. Attending physicians and staff are used to — and often prefer — providers to be in close proximity to them due to ease of access and collaboration. Although working with telepsychiatry providers can be hard on staff at first, it is something that teams can overcome through open communication, education on processes and procedures, and making sure that staff is always supported. When EDs partner with Iris Telehealth, we offer organizations and our providers continual support and resources, no matter the time of day.
The biggest benefits for EDs working with a telepsychiatry vendor
When emergency departments partner with a telepsychiatry vendor like Iris Telehealth, they receive on-demand support and resources to better serve their community. Telepsych providers can assess a patient’s needs and manage their risk to ensure each patient receives proper treatment and is dispositioned quickly.
Emergency departments that utilize telepsychiatry have access to psychiatrists around the clock. No matter if a patient comes in needing help in the wee hours of the morning or during regular business hours, a provider will be available to cover your emergency department. In addition, hospitals are able to meet their organizational and financial needs by having a team of expert psychiatrists available to consult and treat mental health patients.
The on-call doctors and staff will receive support, collaboration, and education on the best way to engage with mental health patients and discern if a psych evaluation or treatment is needed. When telepsychiatry is implemented into the emergency department, doctors and staff can focus on medical and surgical treatments and reduce the length of mental health patients’ stays. When mental health patients have access to adequate psychiatric care, they leave healthier and happier.
How Iris Telehealth can help
Iris Telehealth’s mission is to make sure that no matter where someone seeks mental health help, they receive the best care and treatment possible. When a patient comes through the emergency department seeking mental health services, it’s critical that their throughput wait time is at a minimum and access to high-quality care is seamless.
Iris Telehealth can help you plan, organize, and implement a telepsychiatry program that will allow you to focus on what matters most — providing the best care possible to as many patients as possible. Contact our team to learn more about how we can help you.