Northwell Telepsychiatry Hub provides online lifeline

Mental health on the line: Northwell Health estimates that its 24/7 Emergency Telepsychiatry Hub will dramatically reduce wait times for mental-health patients in emergency rooms around Long Island and Greater New York.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Remote, around-the-clock consultations for mental-health patients in crisis are now beaming around Greater New York, thanks to Northwell Health.

Trumpeting an “innovative, secure online videoconferencing platform” built to connect psychiatrists to patients “when they need them most,” the health system this week debuted its new Emergency Telepsychiatry Hub inside its Lenox Health Greenwich Village facility.

From that Manhattan location, the 770-square-foot center – featuring nine video workstations and a staff that includes 23 psychiatrists and nine master’s-level behavioral health clinicians – will provide 24/7 telehealth resources for mental-health patients across New York City, Westchester County and Long Island.

The New Hyde Park-based health system estimates the Emergency Telepsychiatry Hub, which was officially introduced Wednesday, has already decreased wait times for mental-health patients in regional emergency departments by 90 percent, while providing critical access to qualified professionals in the evening and early-morning hours, “when psychiatry staff at most hospitals have gone home.”

Northwell Health actually began incorporating telepsychiatry options several years ago, before the health system had even adopted its Northwell name. Over the years, it estimates it has conducted 11,000 remote mental-health consultations, including 3,800 in 2018 alone.

Jonathan Merson: Fully committed.

The new Emergency Telepsychiatry Hub is projected to handle roughly 5,000 consultations in 2019, while also providing critical transfer and admitting services – all of which should result in “expedited access to inpatient psychiatry beds” while “reducing the number of patients being held in emergency departments,” according to Northwell Health.

The Emergency Telepsychiatry Hub hits the ground running with connections to 15 Northwell-run emergency departments throughout the region, including several on Long Island. Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, which has its own 24/7 on-site psychiatry coverage, is not plugged in, and Port Jefferson’s Mather Hospital “will be integrated later this year,” according to the health system.

Noting “a technology that has no boundaries,” Jonathan Merson, medical director of Northwell’s Emergency Telepsychiatry Hub Program, said the new telepsychiatry center arrives at a critical time for mental-health patients and their healthcare providers.

“At a time when the American healthcare system is facing a shortage of psychiatrists and mental-health services, telepsychiatry underscores Northwell’s commitment to increasing access to care and improving outcomes for our patients,” Merson said Wednesday. “The goal is simple: No patient experiencing a behavioral health emergency should have to wait to be seen.”