Oregon Hospital Plans Statewide Telepsychiatry Network To Extend Care to Rural Areas
Administrators at the St. Charles Medical Center, based in Bend, Ore., plan to launch a statewide telepsychiatry network that will provide access to mental health specialists in the state's rural central and eastern regions, the Associated Press reports. The network of 26 facilities will reduce travel for psychiatrists and patients and provide rural physicians with experience in mental health treatment, Ruth Giesking, telemedicine coordinator at St. Charles, said. The network will extend care to about 250,000 residents in rural areas of Oregon, some of whom must travel long distances to receive psychiatric treatment. In the network, patients and doctors will interact through videoconference. "It's not the same as seeing a patient in person. But it's much more personal communication than a telephone would be. We can see the patients' visual expressions, get the tonal quality of their voice and assess what their mood appears to be," Dr. Bill Herz, psychiatrist for Crook, Lake and Harney counties, said. In addition to a reduction in travel, the network will allow consultations with psychiatric specialists, such as psychiatrists who provide geriatric or adolescent care or who speak Spanish, services often not available in some parts of the state, according to Dr. Robin Henderson, program director for mental health services at St. Charles. Physicians and patients also could use the network to consult with specialists in other parts of the nation. Hospital officials hope to fund the network with a $500,000 federal grant, Henderson said (Associated Press, 7/6). For more iHealth & Technology stories, visit iHealthBeat.org, a new Web publication sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.