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Telemental Health Brings Help At Patients' Fingertips

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Posted at 4:15 PM, Jul 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-30 19:54:05-04

ORLANDO. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It’s likely that all of us, sometime in our lives, have either known someone coping with a mental illness or we’ve experienced it ourselves. But 60% of adults and 50% of youth ages eight to 15 who have had a mental illness got no help last year. What can we do to get help for more people?

When 12-year-old Xavier Davidson met with his psychiatrist it was as easy as opening up his laptop.

Dr. Vashaun Omar Williams has been a Psychiatrist at Reaching Maximum Potential in Wesley Chapel, Florida. The doctor’s office has been a three-hour round trip drive from Xavier’s home, but a secure video conferencing line has eliminated that distance with a few computer strokes.

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

Monique said managing her son’s ADHD has been so much easier. She can often set up a same-day appointment.

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

Baznik has headed the non-profit group that’s setting up telepsychiatry throughout Florida. For people who live hours away from the nearest psychiatrist, this has provided 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 said when it comes to treating children and teens, video-conferencing has actually been more effective

“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,” Baznik said.

Another benefit of telepsychiatry: far fewer appointments have been canceled. A study from East Carolina University showed only seven to ten percent of telehealth appointments have been 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.

BACKGROUND: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a psychological disorder that can affect both children and adults. Symptoms typically include hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating and difficulty controlling behavior, but the severity of each of these symptoms can vary from person to person. There are three subgroups within the condition: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. While there is no one definite cause of ADHD, genetics seem to be a strong factor. Nutrition, head injuries, environment and alcohol/tobacco use during pregnancy are also being researched as possible causes. It is common for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive to some degree, but children with ADHD exhibit these symptoms more severely. Common signs of inattentiveness include: having difficulty focusing on a task, missing or forgetting details, often losing things, not listening when spoken to and having difficulty processing information as quickly or accurately as others. Common signs of hyperactivity include: fidgeting and squirming when seated, talking nonstop, difficulty doing quiet tasks and touching or playing with everything around them. Symptoms of impulsivity include: impatience, blurting out, having difficulty waiting and interrupting other’s conversations or activities. (Source)

TREATMENT: Psychotherapy and medication can be used to treat the symptoms of ADHD, though there is no way to cure the condition. Psychotherapy may include teaching someone organizational and social skills or simply being there for emotional support. Parents of young children may participate in this kind of treatment by providing feedback to the doctor about progress being made. Other common behavioral therapies include: sticking to a daily routine, fostering a child’s talents or interests, using rewards as encouragement and avoiding distractions like radio or T.V. If behavioral therapy is ineffective at treating someone’s ADHD symptoms, a doctor may prescribe a stimulant medication. These can be taken by mouth or applied as a patch. Ironically, stimulant medication actually calms children with ADHD and can improve their coordination and ability to focus. (Source 1, Source 2)

TELEPSYCHIATRY: With the increased availability of high speed internet throughout the country, more people now have the option to do video-conferencing on their computers and doctors are trying to take advantage of this trend to more easily see their patients. Vashaun Omar Williams, M.D., Board Certified Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, uses telepsychiatry to treat patients who would otherwise need to travel a great distance to visit his office in person. Health insurance companies are even starting to cover video-based doctor appointments just as they would cover in-person visits. In addition to connecting patients to far away doctors, the convenience of video telepsychiatry means that far fewer appointments get canceled verses in-person visits and appointments can be made with very short notice. Widespread use of video-conference doctor appointments could help take the strain off emergency rooms and clinics. (Source, Vashaun Omar Williams, M.D., Board Certified Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist)