Nicole Coniglio, RN, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC, ACNP-BC
Chief Clinical Officer, MindCare Solutions
The US is facing a rapidly growing older population. It’s estimated that in less than two decades, older adults will outnumber children. This swiftly “graying” population is leading to an increase in the number of people needing long-term care services. Today, 70% of people who reach the age of 65 develop the need for long-term care.
Our aging population also faces increasing rates of dementia, depression, and other psychiatric disorders that require specialist care and mental health services. An estimated 65-91% of people in long- term care facilities have mental health issues, but many facilities struggle to provide adequate mental health services.
Often, long-term care facility staff members do not receive sufficient training or support to provide the mental health care that many of the residents need. It is not uncommon for facilities to have no access to on-staff psychiatric services. For years, our system has been underfunded, creating fragmented care that lacks the appropriate social safety net for these vulnerable individuals. Repeatedly, those facing mental health issues are left to negotiate multiple, distinct care systems by themselves, resulting in many not receiving the care they need. Studies have shown that people with persistent mental health issues are often younger and more likely to stay in long-term care than other residents.
These residents deserve better care, and telepsychiatry offers a multitiered, long-term solution to a longstanding problem.
Decrease travel time
Close to 90% of residents in long-term care facilities have mobility issues, putting them at an increased risk of falling or other injuries when they visit off-site medical centers. By bringing the specialist to them, patients with limited mobility no longer have to face an arduous journey to receive care. Telepsychiatry also helps staff members as transporting a resident with limited mobility can require special planning and care to ensure their safety.
Using a telepsychiatry service such as MindCare also reduces wait times for residents, decreasing their stress and increasing their quality of life.
Reduce the risk of improper medications
Since many long-term care facilities do not have an on-staff psychiatrist, the day-to-day and long-term management of psychiatric medications can become difficult. Psychotropic drugs are often prescribed for dementia patients, but these medications can have serious side effects and require careful supervision. With 24/7 access to a telepsychiatrist, residents on psychotropic medication can receive the care and services they need to properly manage their medications and make appropriate changes if any adverse side effects occur.
Many psychotropic drugs, including common antidepressants, can cause an increased risk of falls, hospitalization, and even mortality in older adults. Proper monitoring by a mental health professional can reduce these risks and ensure residents receive the most beneficial medications for them with ongoing monitoring by a caring specialist.
Fewer hospitalizations leads to decreased costs
In addition to reducing side effects through better medication management, having a Telepsychiatry provider on-call can reduce hospitalizations, resulting in cost savings for both long-term care facilities and residents. Even facilities that have on-staff psychiatry may not have access to them 24/7. By adding telehealth, on-site staff will have the access they need for mental health patients even when the on-site provider is out.
A study of telemedicine in nursing homes found that access to telemedicine during off-hours significantly reduced hospitalizations for facilities that were engaged with the tele-providers. On average, each facility saved $151,000; a savings rate far above the annual cost of the telemedicine service.
At MindCare, our team is ready to make an impact. With round-the-clock board-certified psychiatrists and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners, our team is available when you need us most. Whether it is supplementing existing staff or providing access to specialist mental health services that would be otherwise inaccessible, MindCare is ready to partner with you to bring compassionate care to every patient encounter.