Lifelong Health & Aging

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Bridges to Behavioral Health: An Evaluation of Rural Access to Geriatric Psychiatry through Telehealth

TelehealthNetwork Grant Program, Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and HumanServices

Project Description:
The Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging is coordinating evaluation, education and communication services for Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance as partners in their grant to provide behavioral telehealth services throughout a rural network of healthcare sites in Southeastern Virginia. This 4 year grant supports the addition of new behavioral telehealth services at rural long-term care facilities, behavioral health clinics, and hospitals. It is anticipated that Behavioral Telehealth services will impact quality by slowing rates of decline in overall health, increasing access to behavioral healthcare, general and specialized, and decreasing the cost of care.

The project has 21 sites with and without behavioral telehealth capability. These sites include hospitals, counseling centers, long-term care nursing homes, behavioral health centers, and a mobile emergency service. The project is aimed at adults over 45 who have been diagnosed with behavioral health disorders, dementia, depression, anxiety, delirium and other cognitive and neurological disorders. In addition to the provision of behavioral health services, staff training and development will be provided to address issues related to the management of behavioral health issues among older adults.

The evaluation of this project will rely upon four sources of data. (1) Inpatient hospital, emergency department and other acute care services from Riverside Health System billing data and CMS Medicaid claims data, for residents in the intervention group and comparison group, will be used to examine quality, access and costs. (2) The Minimum Data Set will be used to evaluate changes in resident outcomes over time in the intervention and comparison groups. (3) Computer-assisted surveys for clinical staff and residents or their families will be used to measure primarily process efficiencies. (4) These will be supplemented with focus groups to explore specific perceived effects of behavioral telehealth services on process efficiencies.

Anticipated results of this project include the improved management of behavioral health diseases/disorders in older adults by providing more cost-effective and higher levels of care through collaboration among distant psychiatrists, behavioral health counselors and educators, who provide consults for residents and local providers.

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