Video technology breaking down mental health care barriers

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC public relations | July 01, 2013

Image with caption: Max Thacker, associate director of information technology services, demonstrates Vidyo by speaking with UNMC video services facilitator Pat Hoffman. The technology is being used to reach across the state.

Max Thacker, associate director of information technology services, demonstrates Vidyo by speaking with UNMC video services facilitator Pat Hoffman. The technology is being used to reach across the state.

A technology employed at UNMC is breaking down barriers for Nebraskans who live in nursing homes and are in need of mental health services.

Vidyo, a videoconferencing system used in 12 nursing homes across Nebraska, eliminates the need to transport nursing home residents to another location or city to receive mental health services.

Nursing homes using Vidyo are those in Burwell, Cambridge, Harvard, Lincoln, Loup City, Mullen, Newman Grove, Omaha, St. Edward, Stuart, Verdigre and York.

See KNOP TV coverage of the new technology here.

Most psychiatrists in Nebraska practice in Omaha and Lincoln and about 10 are board certified in geriatric psychiatry, said Tom Magnuson, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at UNMC.

"We had a patient years ago who would come to Omaha the day before an appointment and stay overnight," Dr. Magnuson said. "I realized it was ridiculously inconvenient and wondered if there was an easier way. Vidyo enables us to see patients in their environment, where they are less likely to be anxious, fatigued or confused."

The system, which uses desktop or mobile devices and Internet access, provides live, high-definition and secure video communications -- similar to how Skype, a popular video communication application, works.

Before using Vidyo, Dr. Magnuson provided services at a distance solely via the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network, which necessitates transportation of patients to the nearest hospital conference room with a connection.

New technology and an increase in Internet bandwidth has made communication tools like Vidyo affordable to smaller organizations and individuals, said Rod Markin, M.D., chief technology officer for UNMC. Vidyo became available in 2010 and went into use at UNMC in 2011.

"The nice thing about Vidyo is the patient can be anywhere where there's a sizeable Internet connection," Dr. Markin said. "This is a way to get needed health services to folks more conveniently, not only for patients and families, but also for health professionals."

UNMC is currently involved in a Vidyo pilot project with primary care providers and specialty providers in about 40 clinics in Nebraska. Through secured computer or mobile devices with Internet capability, physicians are seeing patients in their homes or in other clinics, including doing patient consultations, evaluations, follow-up visits, and other services.

"We're getting a lot of good responses," said Max Thacker, associate director of Information Technology Services at UNMC and co-chair of the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network. "This would be another tool to extend the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network."

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