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Telepsych company sets out to cut overuse of antipsychotics at SNFs

9:30 pm by | 0 Comments

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has set a goal of reducing the amount of antipsychotic drugs that are prescribed to residents with dementia at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and nursing homes. The organization has found a good portion of the drugs doled out exceed recommended levels. The idea is that they have been used more like a work-management solution for an overwhelmed staff rather than based on the needs of patients. A telepsychiatry company believes it can help with that.

One of the areas where the need is strongest is with SNFs located in rural areas. Rural communities suffer from a dearth of psychiatrists. In 1,253 rural counties with populations of 2,500 to 20,000, nearly three-quarters of these rural counties lack a psychiatrist and 95 percent lack a child psychiatrist, according to data from the journal Academic Psychiatry.

According to Forefront TeleCare CEO Merritt Widen, the two-year-old company’s behavioral health network has 47 psychiatrists, seven nurse practitioners and 16 care providers. It’s received corporate approval from 10 national and regional SNF chains.

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It’s raised $3.5 million to date from private investors–funds it used to build out its system protocols and infrastructure. It’s looking for another $6 million to scale up its infrastructure, boost its SNF market and expand its model from individual providers to add company-employed providers. It’s still working on a proprietary electronic medical record component.

In five years, it hopes to sell up to a large industry player or to an equity firm.

Whether Forefront TeleCare sees them as competition or not, a lot of behavioral health firms are focusing their attention on the combined pain points of the limited number of psychiatrists and psychologists in rural communities, and the growing retirement-aged population. Hopefully they’ll be able to make a positive impact.

“We feel like we’re at the ‘just add water’ stage,” Widen said.

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Lindsey Alexander

By Lindsey Alexander

Lindsey Alexander is an Indiana-based freelance writer and editor covering the medical device industry. She earned a degree in journalism from Indiana University and a master's from Purdue.
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The American Telemedicine Association is the leading international resource and advocate promoting the use of advanced remote medical technologies. ATA and its diverse membership work to fully integrate telemedicine into transformed healthcare systems to improve quality, equity and affordability of healthcare throughout the world. Learn more about ATA at AmericanTelemed.org.


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