The telepsych program was so successful that Mission Hospital added a second specialty in June 2011 to assess possible stroke victims in these EDs. Using the same robot technology to assess patients, neurologists at Mission can now assess whether clot-busting drugs should be administered to patients in those EDs. "With strokes, time is brains," Castellon says. "Otherwise, if patients were traveling to Asheville or to the closest primary stroke center, we're talking lots of minutes and lots of brains that could be lost."
Although psychiatrists can make decisions less urgently, it doesn't make sense from a time or efficiency standpoint to put them on the state's twisty western roads, and have them drive from remote hospital to remote hospital to make rounds. Patients may just end up sitting in the ED for hours waiting to be transferred to an inpatient psychiatric facility for evaluation.
In many cases, the remote consult from Asheville, using the robots, is sufficient for the psychiatrist to prescribe a new medication or change in medication, Castellon says.
But here's where those federal lawmakers enter the picture.