Queen’s launches telepsychiatry project

Faculty from the Queen’s department of psychiatry were on hand May 30 when the electronic ribbon was cut to mark the beginning of a new era in the treatment of psychiatric patients: telepsychiatry.

Offered jointly by the Providence Continuing Care Centre (PCCC) and the psychiatry department at Queen’s, people in need of treatment in rural areas are now able to receive psychiatric care from doctors in Kingston via a closed circuit television system.

“We don’t have enough psychiatric help out there,” said project coordinator Eddy Lloyd at the ribbon cutting. With the click of the mouse, the closed circuit connection to Bancroft was established and the twenty onlookers gathered in the teleconferencing room at PCCC applauded.

Bancroft and Belleville are the first two communities to be linked to Kingston. Sharbot Lake, Smith Falls, Madoc, Northbrook, Picton, Napanee and Trenton are slated to follow.

“A psychiatrist visits this area only once a week, and it is hard to get to help in Kingston if you don’t have the proper means of transport, which a lot of people don’t,” said Pat Parker, telepsychiatry coordinator at the North Hastings community healthy center in Bancroft.

Patients hoping to benefit from telepsychiatry must get a referral from a general practitioner in their area. Once they have been approved, they are directed to a room in their local health centre electronically linked to a Kingston doctor.

Dr. Julio Arboleda-Flores, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Queen’s, said that, while there is no substitute for one-on-one psychiatric treatment, the interaction between doctor and patient in a telepsychiatric consultation is beneficial.

“Studies from Alberta and Australia suggest that results are just as good, and we are pleased with the quality of the transmission,” he said.

The technology will also be used for education, research, and doctor-to-doctor consultations.

Telemedicine programs have operated at Queen’s for several years, but this is the University’s first venture into telepsychiatry, and one of the first times the technology is being used for this purpose in Canada.

“This truly is an accomplishment in e-health,” said Lloyd.

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