Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
Since I now Skype regularly with my 94-year old father-in-law and his wife, the concept of telemental health doesn’t seem as futuristic to me as it used to seem. I was shocked to discover, however, that the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) was established 20 years ago, with the first applications of telemedicine occurring over 40 years ago. Apparently, I’ve been behind the times.
According to the ATA, telemedicine is “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.”
Telemental health, or telepsychology, as the American Psychological Association refers to it, is simply “the provision of psychological services using telecommunication technologies.” I turned to psychologist Dean Paret, PhD, senior vice president of clinical operations of Brighter Day Health, a provider of telemental health services in long-term care, to answer some of my questions about telemental health.
How telemental health works
According to Dr. Paret, telemental health includes not only psychiatric evaluations and medication management sessions, but psychotherapy as well. Providers use a two-way video system over a secure line to “visit” with LTC residents.
The equipment used includes a camera and a video screen that allows the clinician to see the resident and vice versa. The service is similar to Skype or Facetime, but it involves a secure, encrypted network that leaves nothing on the computer and is HIPAA-compliant. Brighter Day Health works with its facilities to set up the proper equipment. “The big challenge is the Internet speed,” Paret stated, “and the ATA has information on funding sources to upgrade rural systems.”
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