UNMC employing video technology to break down mental health care barriers

Vidyo eliminates the need to transport nursing home residents to appointments

UNMC employing video technology to break down mental health care barriers for Nebraska nursing home residents

A technology employed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center 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. The system also saves on staff and transportation costs.

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

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 the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“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 the University of Nebraska Medical Center. 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. Practically speaking, to solve the severe access problems we have in behavioral health services, telemedicine is the perfect solution.”

Eydie Schrad, director of nursing at the Cloverlodge Care Center in St. Edward, Neb., said Vidyo eliminated the need for two health professionals to drive 80 miles a month transporting patients to and from appointments. Cost of the transportation was borne by the resident.

“It was an all-afternoon event,” Schrad said. “The first time the patients used the system they were a little leery but they got so involved in the conversation with the doctor that they never even thought of the fact that they were communicating through technology.

“Now we just wheel the equipment to the residents’ room and turn it on. The fact that the doctor is seeing our resident in their own environment makes a world of difference. They’re more comfortable. It’s wonderful.”

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.”

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.






Vicky Cerino
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-5190