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Epic Outcomes

Telemedicine Connects Kids to Mental Health Treatment

Mercy uses Epic to provide telepsychiatry visits

Providers at Mercy, a Chesterfield, Missouri-based health system, are using video visits to bridge the gap for kids who might not otherwise have access to pediatric psychiatrists. One in five kids experiences a mental health issue in a given year, but most never receive treatment, in part because of limited access to specialists.

Rather than referring patients to a provider who may be hours away, primary care providers can offer a more convenient and cost-effective option by connecting their patients with a specialist almost immediately. Mercy Virtual is a telemedicine center staffed by nearly 250 pediatricians and family medicine specialists, including child-psychiatry experts, who are trained to diagnose and treat common childhood conditions. Epic guides doctors through best practices for different conditions and medication-prescribing decisions, and the virtual team can access pediatric patients’ charts and medical history as they make a diagnosis.

“Treating pediatric mental illness in the primary care office means not waiting for months to see a specialist,” said Dr. Kyle John, a pediatric psychiatrist at Mercy. “If the primary care physician needs help, specialists are available immediately by phone, an Epic In Basket message, or video.”

Telemedicine isn’t a replacement for in-person care, especially when establishing a new patient-provider relationship, but it can be just as effective for follow-up visits and specialty consults. Parents, teens, and family practitioners report high satisfaction with remote consults and appreciate the convenience and privacy.

Susan Ford, the parent of a child who was evaluated remotely by a child psychiatrist, is happy with the model, explaining, “[My daughter] was able to get help and get it quickly instead of getting on a waiting list.”

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.