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.
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.