The South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH), the largest provider of telemedicine services in South Carolina, has set yet another benchmark in merging technology and quality healthcare, providing its 100,000th psychiatric service via telemedicine. This award-winning program, launched in 2009 with funding assistance from The Duke Endowment and the State Medicaid agency, connects patients in emergency departments and community mental health clinics to SCDMH psychiatrists in other locations. The program is a lifeline for rural areas of the State, where there is a long-standing shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to provide high-quality care.
Telepsychiatry uses a high-definition video connection between patient and physician or mental health professional. The patient is located in a private room, where he or she can communicate in real time with the provider. The technology makes it possible for a patient to have an assessment with a psychiatrist in another location, with the same quality as a personal, face-to-face meeting in the doctor’s office.
This connective service not only helps patients avoid unnecessary hospitalizations, but also provides the specialized treatment patients need sooner and in their local communities. In addition, it reduces expenses for healthcare providers and taxpayers, diverting patients with behavioral health needs from local emergency departments and hospitals, allowing providers to redirect workers to meet other critical needs.
“Telepsychiatry is changing the game in South Carolina. This is a cutting-edge statewide service-delivery model that provides psychiatric care in a matter of hours to people in many areas who once had to wait days for help,” said DMH Deputy Director, Medical Affairs Robert Bank, M.D. “The services our program provides are accelerating, and I am excited to find new ways to deploy the technology in the future.”
“Not only do we look forward to expanding to additional rural hospitals, but also other providers, such as county Emergency Services, crisis care providers, and even primary practice settings, where a family doctor might want to obtain a specialized consultation. Our ultimate goal is to provide services to people in need in the most convenient and cost-effective way and location, possible,” said SCDMH State Director John H. Magill. “The program would not be possible without the initial and continued investment of The Duke Endowment and the support of the S.C. General Assembly.”
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health’s mission is to support the recovery of people with mental illnesses. Since its inception, the Agency’s hospitals and nursing homes have treated more than 1 million patients, and its outpatient mental health centers and clinics have served more than three million patients. Today, SCDMH comprises a network of seventeen community mental health centers; more than 60 clinics; multiple inpatient hospitals, including one for substance-use treatment; one community nursing care center; and three veterans’ nursing homes. It serves approximately 70,000 adults and 30,000 children and adolescents every year.
Click the links below to see how SCDMH telehealth programs work, and how they're making an impact across South Carolina.