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Telemental health at your fingertips

By Ivanhoe Newswire 6:06 PM July 28, 2015

It’s likely that all of us, sometime in our lives will either know someone coping with a mental illness or we’ll experience it ourselves. But 60 percent of adults and 50 percent of youth ages 8 to 15 who have a mental illness got no help last year. What can we do to get help for more people?

When 12-year-old Xavier Davidson meets with his psychiatrist it’s as easy as opening up his laptop.

Vashaun Omar Williams, MD, psychiatrist at Reaching Maximum Potential in Wesley Chapel, Florida’s office is a three-hour round trip drive from Xavier’s home, but a secure video conferencing line eliminates that distance with a few computer strokes.

Monique Davidson, Xavier’s Mother said, “His behavior is way better and I think that’s because he’s been active in basketball.”

Monique says managing her son’s ADHD is so much easier now. She can often set up a same-day appointment.

Anna Baznik, president/CEO of IMPOWER in Orlando, Florida, told Ivanhoe, “And that reason is because our practitioners can be anywhere, and our client can be anywhere.”

Baznik heads the nonprofit group that’s setting up telepsychiatry throughout Florida. For people who live hours away from the nearest psychiatrist, this provides a lifeline.

“Some of our clients are Medicaid clients and transportation is an issue, missing work is an issue, taking kids out of school is an issue” she explained.

You may think the video sessions lack an important human touch, but Baznik says when it comes to treating children and teens, video-conferencing actually is more effective.

Baznik said, “Practitioners are getting much more information from the children because they’re much more comfortable on iPhones and on social media, so they’re opening up more.”

Another benefit of telepsychiatry: Far fewer appointments are canceled. A study from East Carolina University showed only seven to 10 percent of telehealth appointments are cancelled, compared to 35 to 42 percent of office appointments. Prescribing most medication can also be done through telepsychiatry because doctors can email or call into a patient’s pharmacy. United healthcare, Oscar, WellPoint and some BlueCross BlueShield plans have also adopted telemedicine programs recently.

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