Experienced in the delivery of other types of telemedicine and telehealth-driven medical systems, Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, saw an opportunity to solve their problem of a timely and efficient way to deliver child psychiatry treatment.
Great distances and shortage of doctors who practice child psychiatry is the essence of the problem.
Mercy’s psychiatric doctors have patients in the four states the hospital serves. The patients and their parents often have to travel long distances to an appointment. The parents take time from work and sometimes an entire day to drive to their appointments. The shortage of child and adolescent psychiatric practitioners compounds the problem; too few doctors in the field makes it very difficult to get an appointment, regardless of how far away the facility.
Realizing they could emulate general practitioners who were delivering their medicine via a telemedicine system, Mercy’s Dr. Kyle John and his cohorts in the small five-person psychiatric unit brought their problem to Mercy’s IT department. The doctors wanted to increase their delivery of services as they reduced the distance the patient and parents had to travel for services.
Mercy had a solution: they would practice child telepsychiatry with a simple desktop or laptop computer and monitor and a videoconference camera that can pan, tilt and zoom. The computers in their system run proprietary software encrypted for patient privacy.
“I can zoom in on any part of the patient with the controls I have available in the room while I’m examining them,” Dr. John said.
A desktop and monitor in a dedicated room and Mercy Hospital had its first telepsychiatry service. “It’s really that simple, which I guess is what makes it so brilliant. Once we got all the encryption and security how we needed it, it came down to a couple of monitors and Web cams,” said Mercy spokeswoman, Sonya Kullmann.
Movi provides services similar to Skype but as Mercy’s Director of IT, Wendy Deibert explained, “It’s better encrypted to keep the transactions private. We need to meet the HIPAA regulations because we deal in patient information, and Skype didn’t meet those standards,” Deibert said.
Deibert briefly discussed the security issues for the child and adolescent telepsychiatry program. The software alerts the hospital to hacking by pedophile predators. “We weren’t online very long the first time we had the system up and running and we had someone attempt to get into our system,” Deibert said.
The United States has approximately 7,418 psychiatric doctors to serve an adolescent and children’s population of almost 74 million. The Surgeon General’s office says at least