Telehealth Delivers Critical Mental Health Services to Vulnerable Populations

| URAC Staff
Depressed man visits to virtual psychotherapist

From America’s most remote towns to its isolated prisons, a new wave of innovations in technology and treatment is delivering critical mental health care to some of the nation’s most vulnerable patients – and Robert Plotkin, CEO of Arcadian Telepsychiatry Services, is excited to be at the vanguard of it all.

His firm uses video to deliver telepsychiatry and teletherapy with therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and other qualified professionals. The technology makes it possible to utilize a far deeper pool of professionals and share their much-needed skills virtually anywhere with a broadband connection. “We can offer any licensed, clinical social worker or a therapist and psychiatrist” in its network, he says. “We deploy our services into primary care practices, correctional facilities, long-term care, community-based organizations, health systems, and health claims” among many others, Plotkin explains.

Plotkin will be a speaker at URAC’s Telemed Leadership Forum 2019 beginning April 3 in Washington, D.C. He’s looking forward to using the platform “to talk about the use of technology to improve overall behavioral healthcare and reducing overall costs to the system.”

Last November, Arcadian was acquired by MYnd Analytics (NASDAQ: MYnd), fusing two very different skillsets into one powerful offering for patients and those who deliver healthcare services. MYnd, a data analytics company, has a platform to help doctors in several ways. For example, it allows them to identify the best medications based on a person's neurophysiology. They do that by evaluating a patient's Electrophysiological Monitoring Method (EEG) and compare it to a registry of 40,000 outcomes that they've collected over the last 20 years, Plotkin says.

“We compare the patient's EEG through data analytics and algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to the registry and the output is a report that shows what the best medication is for that person's particular neurophysiology...it can drill down to the specific medication,” he explains. For example, a patient might respond better to Paxil than Prozac.

Woven together, the streams of information are used as “a guide for our clinicians to help them be better prescribers and reduce the trial and error for patients who want to get on the right medication the first time,” he says.

There are additional benefits on the horizon, Plotkin says. “The other thing that we'll be doing is helping primary care doctors become better prescribers of psychiatric medication by using this tool,” he explains. “The thought is that the majority of psychiatric medications are written by primary care doctors, so, we think that both the primary care space is an important one for us to be delivering our services; our telepsychiatry, collaborative care.” The patient profile package is called the Psychiatric EEG Evaluation Registry, or PEER Online.

Patients, too, have grown more comfortable with telepsychiatry and teletherapy. Many are using Skype to connect with friends and family, he notes. Patients soon understand “it's sort of like the same thing except we do it to via a HIPPA-compliant, secure, platform.”

While it’s been a rewarding journey so far, Plotkin is even more optimistic about the future.

“I think that there'll be more integration of behavioral health and physical health, and that we're going to be doing more in collaboration with the primary care practices and primary care doctors,” he says. The idea behind targeting the primary care physicians is to reduce costly and sometimes unnecessary visits to the emergency department. “We're looking at the primary care setting as the ground zero for where the patient goes,” Plotkin says.

Whether it’s in a correctional facility or a rural health clinic, “our goal is to be able to identify patients before they have a crisis,” he says. Telehealth tools and evolving best practices allow healthcare professionals to reach patients sooner using “technology like behavioral health assessments, questionnaires that are either AI-driven, or algorithm-driven, so that we can parse out, for example, looking at [disparate datasets] and identify what a particular patient's likelihood is to need services.”

It’s not always easy to be a pioneer, Plotkin admits. “When I started the company in 2013, it was early [before many telehealth concepts were in the news], and I was driving throughout the state of Pennsylvania going to businesses and community-based agencies to talk about telepsychiatry,” where there was little interest. 

It seems like just yesterday people didn’t understand telemedicine and were not interested. Today the landscape has changed where telemedicine is viewed as a powerful tool improving access to care and lowering costs.

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