Akron Children's Hospital getting a nearly half-million dollar grant to help children with mental health issues get help -- without leaving home. The $463-thousand dollar grant from Hudson's Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation helps improve videoconferencing and new technology doctors can use to better serve patients.
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(Akron Children's Hospital) Akron Children’s Hospital has received a $463,593 grant from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation of Hudson to create a new telehealth program that will make it easier for children with mental health issues to get the care they need closer to home.
Telehealth refers to the use of telecommunication technologies, such as video conferencing, to help provide health care services over a distance. This program, which will be implemented in phases, will focus on increasing access to behavioral health treatment.
Because there is a national shortage of pediatric behavioral health specialists, many patients must travel long distances for treatment. The difficulty accessing care oftentimes results in many children not receiving the behavioral health care treatment they need. In Akron Children’s 28-county service region, patients needing consultations for mental health concerns often must travel to the main hospital campus in downtown Akron, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
The new telehealth program will give patients the option to simply go to their local pediatrician’s office and see their behavioral health specialist on the main campus through a secure, high-definition video conference. The program will launch at a Akron Children’s Hospital-Pediatrics office later this year, with plans for later expansion.
“We are excited to be developing this new program which, when fully implemented, will give our patients new options for getting care in a more convenient way,” said Stephen Cosby, MD, director of the Division of Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology at Akron Children’s Hospital. “In many cases, transportation issues and the stigma that is sometimes associated with behavioral health concerns are barriers to receiving treatment. Now, patients will be able to receive care in a familiar environment: their pediatrician’s office.”
According to the American Telemedicine Association, research has shown that patients can be reliably assessed, diagnosed, and treated with medicine and psychotherapy in outpatient clinics using video conferencing. In addition, telehealth services have been shown to improve collaboration between health care professionals in different locations. Patients surveyed say they felt that the communication between their physicians had improved their outcomes.
Akron Children’s has created a tele-mental health project team to oversee the pilot, which will be developed according to national guidelines. The pilot is also the first major project of the new Center for Telehealth Service Design at Akron Children’s Hospital, which aims to develop knowledge and expertise in the design of telehealth service solutions, with an emphasis on pediatrics.
This is not the first time Akron Children’s has received support from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation. The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation previously provided a $1.2 million grant that led to the development of the Psychiatric Intake Response Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, which has served nearly 10,000 children since its inception in 2007.
"The telehealth project is one more step towards fully integrating primary care and behavioral health care delivery in our region and beyond,” said Rick Kellar, president of the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation. “Akron Children’s Hospital is once again on the cutting edge of transforming health care delivery for children, and we are delighted to once again partner with this world class institution."