Health IT, Hospitals

Telehealth leader at Children’s Mercy fights clinician resistance in behavioral health

Telemedicine boosters have long touted remote consultation as a way to expand access to behavioral health services, but clinicians once resisted the technology at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., the hospital’s telemedicine chief said at mHealth + Telehealth World 2015.

Telemedicine boosters have long touted remote consultation as a way to expand access to behavioral health services. That is exactly the message that Morgan Waller, telemedicine director at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., brought to behavioral health departments there.

But for a while, they were not receptive, Waller, a registered nurse, said Monday in a preconference workshop ahead of mHealth + Telehealth World 2015 in Boston.

“We’re already at capacity” once was the refrain from departmental leaders, Waller said. That reasoning made no sense to her, considering that telehealth programs have been in place in other departments for as long as four years.

“Do they turn away new patients who want to see someone in person?” Waller wondered aloud. “Telemedicine should not be something additional to what we already have to do.”

Granted, Waller said, some mental and behavioral health specialists at pediatric hospitals already are at capacity in terms of patient load, but not all are. “If you’re still taking [new] patients, you really should consider remote visits,” she advised. And even those who are maxed out might consider telehealth for existing patients as a way to lessen the travel and waiting burden on the families.

Children’s Mercy today has more than 20 providers in behavioral health who have telemedicine privileges.

Though Kansas City is on the Missouri-Kansas border, Waller said that cross-state licensure has not been an issue because all of Children’s Mercy behavioral health practitioners are licensed to practice in both states. It simply was an issue of clinician culture and reluctance to change, Waller explained.

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