Telepsychiatry Program Honored

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the South Carolina Hospital Association with assistance from The Duke Endowment in 2009, developed a statewide telepsychiatry program for all hospitals operating emergency departments. This has enabled psychiatric consultations to be available in all state emergency departments at any hour.

The program uses real-time state-of-the-art video and voice technology to connect DMH psychiatrists to hospital emergency departments throughout the State. The program is trying to find ways to deal with the critical shortage of psychiatrists in South Carolina’s underserved areas. The program has proven to be highly effective in assisting hospital emergency rooms to provide treatment to patients in a behavioral crisis.

The goals are to:

  • Increase the number of patients able to receive comprehensive assessment using telemedicine technology
  • Ensure that focused documentation is generated from each telemedicine consultation
  • Maximize the number of patients seen through a seamless joint consultation proves
  • Reduce the average length of stay in the emergency room
  • Increase the number of psychiatrists and psychiatric residents trained to use telemedicine and to provide for a larger pool of psychiatrists for consultations
  • Reduce the cost of mental healthcare by decreasing the use of sheriff deputies, probate judges, and designated examiners


Since its inception, the program has provided more than 20,000 psychiatric consultations in emergency departments across the state in twenty hospitals in the state. This year from January to May 2015, statistics show that 1,759 emergency department patients have been seen utilizing technology.

The South Carolina General assembly issued a concurrent resolution congratulating the South Carolina DMH’s Emergency Department Telepsychiatry Consultation Program for being named part of the 2015 “Bright Ideas” program by the Harvard University Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

For consideration as a “Bright Idea”, the program must show that there is improvement in patient care and is actively reducing costs. The resolution was adopted by both the state House and Senate in February 2015.

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