Ben Heavrin, MD

Benjamin Heavrin, MD
Attending Physician, Nashville General Hospital
Chief Medical Officer, Qsource

The unique value of telebehavioral health during this time is extraordinary, especially for those with decompensated mental illness presenting to the emergency department. I see this value each shift I work in the ER.

Telepsychiatry in the ED

What extraordinary times we are all traveling through together!

Amidst the clouds of a global pandemic, there are a few rays of sunshine that are visible. One such ray is the escalation in telehealth utilization as a means to provide high-value healthcare interactions while also promoting safety and social distancing. MindCare is no exception.

The unique value of telebehavioral health during this time is extraordinary, especially for those with decompensated mental illness presenting to the emergency department. I see this value each shift I work in the ER.

While overall emergency department volumes have decreased during the pandemic, anecdotally I have not noticed a drop in patients coming to the emergency department for behavioral health complaints. In fact, as outpatient venues for care understandably reduce their capacity to see patients as a means to support our public health mandates, the ED remains the safety net for those individuals needing immediate therapy during this pandemic.

Understandably, the safety of all our patients and staff is paramount. I understand how our leaders and colleagues at inpatient behavioral health facilities are concerned about accepting patients who may be under investigation for COVID-19. Mitigating the spread of disease is a key public health initiative. But behavioral health issues don’t hit “pause” until a COVID test result returns.

Amidst the challenges and delays of testing during the pandemic, the ability to deliver high-quality, trusted, and valued telepsychiatry to the emergency department is vital. I am thankful that MindCare provides this immediate and compassionate tele-service to our ER population in crisis. Let’s start diagnosis and treatment at the time of presentation – not days down the line when a transfer disposition is available. In fact, early telepsych intervention may even avoid that need for inpatient hospitalization, altogether.

As we all know, the new normal where we all live brings with it a novel wave of stressors and anxieties that could contribute to a behavioral health crisis. My thanks go to the MindCare team for supporting the emergency care ecosystem during this unprecedented pandemic.

Dr. Heavrin is on MindCare’s Advisory Board