The ability to quickly respond to the needs of behavioral health patients who present in the emergency department can be challenging for any hospital but even more so for rural facilities. These facilities often don’t have rapid access to specialists who can provide high-level psychiatric assessments, especially during surge periods.
Acadia Hospital, Bangor, Maine, a nonprofit acute care psychiatric hospital employing more than 30 psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, has helped rural hospitals in the state and as far away as Indiana bridge this critical gap in ED services with videoconferencing technology.
Northern Light Acadia Hospital, a member of the Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (as of October, the system is now called Northern Light Health), used money from equipment grants to install televideo technology in rural hospitals in the northern half of the state a decade ago and has been refining its efforts ever since. Today, the hospital offers 24/7 telepsychiatry services to 15 rural EDs throughout Maine. Over the past year, it has provided about 1,400 telepsychiatry consultations. The response from patients and clinical staff involved in the consultations has been equally positive. And the hospital has seen an unintended benefit from the program: It has been a valuable recruitment tool to attract mental health providers.
This is just one of the many ways AHA members are addressing behavioral health needs.