By Richard Asinof
EAST PROVIDENCE – A new pilot program using “telemedicine” – using technology to connect mental health professionals with clients via secure video, email and chat – has been undertaken at Evergreen House Health Center.
The new program began in November in partnership with geriatric mental health specialists from Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital.
“Depression is very common in nursing home patients, and there are not enough geriatric mental health professionals to provide services. We need to find creative ways to better help these individuals,” said Thomas Sheeran, a clinical psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital, the principal investigator. “Telemedicine allows mental health professionals to reach more people than they otherwise could, especially among seniors who may have mobility challenges.”
The hospitals and nursing home have partnered with Breakthrough, a technology firm based in Palo Alto, Calif., financed with a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation. “We are thrilled to help … Evergreen House improve care for their elderly patients,” said Breakthrough CEO Mark Goldenson. “Telebehavioral care is accessible, private, and lets providers help patients from almost anywhere.”
Sheeran and his colleagues will report the results in summer 2012.
“Evergreen House is a community of supportive and personalized care, and we are very excited to be a community partner in this project to improve the quality of life for our residents,” said Dr. Allen Dennison, Evergreen’s medical director.