To better support residents of smaller communities who often face obstacles to seeing a mental health professional, The University of Kansas Health System is bringing the specialists to St. Rose Medical Pavilion.
The new service is called telebehavioral health. It links a local patient with a Kansas City-based mental health specialist by secure videoconference.
“This could be described as a virtual doctor’s visit,” said Kathryn Sleigh, telebehavioral health coordinator. “Mental health is so important, and we are bringing it to rural areas that may have a shortage of specialists in this field.
“Even though we are in the early stages here in Great Bend, local physicians are excited. Primary care physicians can get an outside perspective and a second opinion. They know it is important and are pleased to have this option for their patients.”
Currently, the service is offered one day a month at St. Rose Medical Pavilion. If patient demand warrants, it could become more frequent. The secure video service, which allows privacy, also is offered at about 10 other health-care locations in Kansas.
“We encourage patients to talk with their doctors about this service,” Sleigh said. “Coordination with primary care physicians is an important part of our approach.”
Robert Moser, MD, executive physician advisor to The University of Kansas Health System, said “We know access to this type of service can be challenging in the rural setting because of the shortage of behavioralists. I noticed in my rural practice in Tribune, Kansas, the reluctance of patients to visit area mental health professionals because of the stigma and travel distances.
“This led us to integrating a behavioralist into our clinic. Patients viewed this professional as part of the local primary care team,” added Dr. Moser.
St. Rose Medical Pavilion providers have been “very supportive of our efforts to improve the quality of local care and outcomes,” Dr. Moser commented. “When we applied for grant funding, St. Rose Medical Pavilion stepped up and wanted to participate.
“We believe we can demonstrate that many behavioral health issues can be managed through this service. Those needing more advanced care or crisis intervention can be referred to the appropriate mental health center.”
The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the federal grant in support of this service.
If insurance doesn’t cover a visit, The University of Kansas Health System offers a 40% reduction for those who self-pay.
For more information, contact Sleigh at 785-650-2866.