Hospitals are leveraging technology beyond its initial design to meet the needs of mental health patients

Hospitals are leveraging technology beyond its initial design to meet the needs of mental health patients


Following an increase in the number of patients with mental disorders, some health systems have sought new ways to help patients. For example, hospitals are leveraging technology solutions designed for an entirely different purpose than new ways to support their mental health patients, noted Philips, an Amsterdam-based health tech company. Christine Storm, business leader, virtual care solutions at Philips, discussed this phenomenon with MedCity in an email exchange.

MedCity News: How have you seen businesses/health systems respond with innovation to address mental health issues during the pandemic?

Storm: Many of them have not only pivoted to ensure they can deal with the current mental health crisis, but many are taking action to address mental health issues in their communities. For example, telehealth around behavioral health needs – treating patients in suburban and rural areas has increased. Good help quickly established a program where they used their telehealth carts in the emergency department to give patients access to behavioral health specialists, even if the behavioral health specialist was not on site. Like many health systems, they have seen an increase in the number of adolescents feeling the impact of isolation and distance learning due to the pandemic. Bon Secours also uses this model to bring behavioral health to communities, by providing behavioral health in its ambulatory care sites through the telehealth solution.

MedCity News: You mentioned that hospitals are using technology solutions designed for an entirely different purpose in new ways to provide comfort and care for those who are suffering. What does this look like in practice?

Storm: One of the first examples is the Philips Ambient Experience solution used in 4 specialized emergency rooms at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. This system was originally created to help put patients at ease during radiology studies, helping them stay calm and focused when entering a scanner. However, Children’s Medical Center Dallas chose to implement them in a new way, to help with the number of teenagers who came into their emergency department with mental health issues.

According to Geneva Burnap’s senior director of emergency services for them, the isolation of Covid-19 and other factors have made many people very sad. The hospital has introduced a space called “Philips Rooms” – a place where teens can experience light and a welcoming environment to help them feel comfortable. The patient can choose the theme that he likes the most in the immersive experience that accompanies it. Instead of sitting in a traditional emergency room to [hours]they have this unique interactive environment.

MedCity News: You mentioned the concept of eSitters. Can you elaborate?

Storm: Organizations like Bon Secours in New York have taken their eICU technologies and used them to support patients in unique ways. Traditionally, these eICU systems are used to monitor patients and allow clinicians to access specialists and other support teams to give the patient the best possible care, even if that provider is not immediately available at the hospital. According to Mary Leahy, CEO of Bon Secours, they have pivoted to use these systems to also give patients, especially Covid-19 patients, a way to connect with their nurses and have human interaction, without exposing them or their caregivers. Someone was always there virtually to monitor the patients and they could also have conversations with them, helping them to feel less isolated.

MedCity News: How do you see the field of mental health care evolving in the months ahead? years?

Storm: We see technologies like telehealth continue to come closer to the patient and be combined with office visits to help address mental health issues in schools and emergency rooms. From school to home, and even in the community, mental health will continue to happen in a more private and convenient way for patients. This will help break down barriers and get them the help they need when they need it.

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