Technology Brings Psychiatry to Horizon Health

  • Category: News
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  • Written By: Horizon Health

The power of the internet is bringing advanced mental health services to Horizon Health.

Access to psychiatric services is now available through videoconferencing technology. The service, known as “telepsychiatry,” is a partnership of Horizon Health and the Human Resources Center of Edgar and Clark Counties (HRC).

“This addresses a tremendous need for mental health services in our communities,” said Oliver Smith, Horizon Health president and CEO. “It provides access to services that otherwise would not be available, and does so in a convenient and readily accessible way for patients.”

Improved access to mental health services, especially for youth, was a “significant local need” identified in Horizon Health’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment. The assessment is done every three years to identify the community’s primary health needs and to develop a plan to address them.

Telepsychiatry allows for direct interaction between a psychiatrist and patient using video-based software. The software links board-certified psychiatrists in the Chicago area with patients at Horizon Health via webcam and personal computer.

Participating psychiatrists include Saba Syed, MD, who treats adults; Jorge Fernald, MD, and Mohanakumari Naidu, MD, who specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry. Psychiatrists can address a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress. They are medical doctors who can also prescribe medicine.

Danielle Yates, registered nurse at Horizon Health, serves as the program’s coordinator with assistance from Patti Milburn of HRC. Danielle schedules appointments, performs insurance authorization, communicates with the patient’s primary care provider, and addresses any patient medical concerns between counseling visits.

“This program integrates behavioral health and primary care to reduce barriers in rural communities,” Danielle said. “There is a shortage of psychiatrists nationwide, especially in rural areas like ours. The public interest in this program has been amazing.”

While some people may be reluctant to talk to a psychiatrist on a video screen, most patients have been comfortable with the experience, said Abby Barrett, licensed social worker at Horizon Health.

“Mental health is a sensitive topic,” she said. “With this new service, patients feel a heightened sense of privacy because they aren’t seeing their doctor out in the community. Though this is an electronic means of communication between doctor and patient, it is similar to an in-person office visit.”

Telepsychiatry at Horizon Health is available to patients age 5 and older. To schedule an appointment, a referral is needed from a primary care provider or therapist.