Newly Launched North Carolina Telepsychiatry Project Proving Successful

A newly launched telepsychiatry program in North Carolina is resulting in patients spending less time waiting in hospital emergency rooms for mental health services and decreasing their likelihood of returning for treatment.  The program, which started January 1, 2014, is a joint initiative between the Governor’s office, the Department of Health and Human Services, and East Carolina University.  28 of the 100 counties in North Carolina do not have a single psychiatrist, which is creating a statewide shortage for mental health services.  As a result the state is electronically connecting patients with a psychiatrist via a secured two-way video connection.

This program and others like it are part of an increased nationwide emphasis on telemedicine, in which medical service providers’ are using rapidly improving technologies to deliver services to patients in hard to serve areas.   Though concerns still exist in areas such as patient privacy and reimbursement for service, better utilizing technology has the potential to significantly improve access to health care in rural areas and, in turn, reduce costs for patients, states and the federal government.

While the North Carolina example cited above offers an intrastate solution, several different organizations have been working with the Council of State Governments to explore the use of interstate compacts to promote license portability across states lines, including:

  • The National Association of State EMS Officials;
  • The Federation of State Medical Boards;
  • The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy; and
  • The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
     

The goal of these various efforts would be to ensure access to high quality health care while reducing the existing barriers to the process of gaining licensure in multiple states. This has the potential to help facilitate telemedicine and widen access to a variety of medical services as the Affordable Care Act is implemented. Licensing compacts also provide a mechanism to ensure state regulatory agencies maintain their licensing and disciplinary authority.

To listen to the NPR story about North Carolina's telepsychiatry program please click here

To learn more about CSG’s ongoing medical licensing work please click here.

To learn more about interstate compacts please visit www.csg.org/ncic.