How the LSU Behavioral Science Center uses Hale to offer expert mental health care to patients across Louisiana.
Not far from the colonial-era balconies of New Orlean’s French Quarter, the clinical team at the LSU Behavioral Sciences Center is engaged in a decidedly 21st-century enterprise to bring care to patients across the state of Louisiana.
The Behavioral Sciences Center (BSC) delivers innovative and personalized treatment to patients with a wide variety of mental disorders, and has special expertise in working with clients that have medical and neurological complications. As a leading academic center in the state’s largest city, the BSC attracts patients from all corners of the state to receive such expert care—sometimes hours from New Orleans.
Identifying an opportunity to deliver more convenient and continuous care to these patients, Dr. Michael Walsh utilizes the Hale Health platform to extend the reach of his services—more naturally incorporating treatment into the daily lives of his patients. The successful program represents an important tool to addressing critical issues for millions of Americans that struggle with access to behavioral health services.
Identifying a need for new solutions
The demand for mental health care is significant: according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 5 American adults have experienced a mental health issue—and 1 in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness. Yet more than half of adults with mental illness in the United States do not receive mental healthcare treatment. Even informed and motivated patients seeking treatment can struggle to find a provider that is relatively close and accepting new patients.
The need is particularly acute in rural areas like those found in many parts of Louisiana. Across the state, over 3.4 million residents currently live in areas designated as a mental health care Health Professional Shortage Area. The national Mental Health Association’s 2015 report lists Louisiana as one of the states with the highest prevalence of mental illness and lowest rates of access to care.
In addition to servicing such rural parts of the state, Dr. Walsh is a sought-after expert for treating patients with various medical complications—such as severe vestibular disorders. These ailments can make even a short trip across town to the clinic a taxing and lengthy ordeal. Whether facing limitations due to geographic distance or physical health, Dr. Walsh saw significant opportunities to improve access for patients that otherwise found it difficult to make it into the clinic.
“By using technology platforms like Hale, we can increase accessibility of behavioral health services for those who are limited by geography or physical health. And there's no reason these same tools also can't help busy individuals fit in more consistent follow-up care without disruption to their schedules.”
Introducing LSU Home, Powered by Hale
The theme of patient access was not isolated to the team at the Behavioral Sciences Center. LSU Healthcare Network is comprised of almost 200 physicians representing over 30 specialties—many with panels similar to Dr. Walsh, drawing patients from across the state.
Recognizing the broader opportunity, LSU Healthcare Network worked with the team at Hale to deploy a custom application for any of their clinical teams to use with patients: LSU Home Powered by Hale.
LSU Home is a flexible platform that gives LSUHN providers a full set of remote care tools—fully integrated with their existing EMR and practice management systems. Clinical teams can leverage live video visits, secure messaging, structured data collection, and more to deliver timely and convenient care.
The entire experience is branded, giving patients a single seamless experience with LSUHN. Given the organization has a dedicated Powered by Hale app, they were also able to define workflows and custom features—including a complete provider directory with one-tap directions to LSUHN clinic locations.
With a powerful platform in hand with LSU Home, Dr. Walsh was able to quickly get started offering a convenient telemedicine option for patients right through their own smartphone or tablet
Offering convenience—and more connected care
Since rolling out LSU Home within the BSC, patient response has been incredibly positive.
While patients are still seen in the clinic, live video visits are often an appropriate option for scheduling subsequent appointments—and many patients alternate between the two. This allows follow-up to be more frequent, treatment dialogue more continuous, and medication adjustments more expedient. Dr. Walsh has also found that, along with these benefits, video visits generally tend to be quicker than office visits.
“Hale helps keep treatment fluid, letting us continue important dialogue without logistical worries. It makes patients feel heard—and when they feel taken care of, treatment is less stressful and my daily practice is easier.”
Moreover, patients are able to join their sessions right through the LSU Home app from the comfort of their own home. This offers two important benefits versus a standard in-person appointment:
First, it takes away a layer of resistance for patients who might be uncomfortable in the clinic setting—or worse, feel a level of stigma around their mental illness. Greater privacy and comfort can allow patients to open up about topic they might otherwise avoid.
Second, it provides an otherwise unseen view into their daily environment—which can be very helpful to a mental health provider assessing a patient’s situation. Observing an individual’s space and how they behave in it can offer important inputs into diagnosis and treatment planning.
Extending the reach of expert referrals
Beyond using Hale with his existing psychiatric patients, Dr. Walsh has also been able to leverage the platform to manage and expand patient referrals from specialists from outside the New Orleans area.
Given his expertise in treating patients with neurological complications, specialists—such as an otologist in the Baton Rouge area, roughly 1.5 hours away—often refer patients in distress to his care. While Dr. Walsh still ensures that he sees new patients in the office, remote care delivered through Hale compliments otherwise distant patient relationships and improves compliance throughout treatment. The increased frequency of contact also reinforces the referral loop he has with patients’ specialist providers.
“Hale has been the best way to provide my services to a broad area of Louisiana, expanding specialist referrals. I can now offer my expertise—in an integrated fashion with other providers—to a larger patient population.”
Given this type of alliance can work well with other specialties, Dr. Walsh is exploring creating similar referral relationships with other providers—including oncologists, movement specialists, mobility clinics, etc.
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