A Statewide Child Telepsychiatry Consult System Yields Desired Health System Changes and Savings

Telemed J E Health. 2015 Jul;21(7):533-7. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2014.0161. Epub 2015 Mar 23.


Background: Telepsychiatry has clinical efficacy with children, but questions remain about cost-effectiveness. State agencies and health systems need to know if a child telepsychiatry consult system can address system concerns and improve care quality while lowering costs.

Materials and methods: To assist care in a rural state with few child and adolescent psychiatrists, an academic center coordinated a consult system of (1) televideo consults for high-needs children with Medicaid and state Multidisciplinary Team (MDT)/foster care involvement, (2) remote medication reviews for beyond guidelines prescribing, and (3) elective community provider telephone-based consults. Consult service data were collected and analyzed with Wyoming's Medicaid and Foster Care Divisions between the program start in January 2011 until March 2013.

Results: There were 229 televideo MDT/foster care consults, 125 mandatory medication reviews, and 277 elective phone consultations supporting community providers during this period. Following implementation, the number of Medicaid children ≤5 years of age using psychotropic medications decreased by 42% (p<0.001), and the number of children using psychotropic doses >150% of the Food and Drug Administration maximum decreased by 52% (p<0.001). Televideo consults redirected 60% of children slated by caseworkers for a psychiatric residential treatment facility admission into alternative community treatment and placements. A financial return on investment was 1.82 to 1 for combined services.

Conclusions: This coordinated child telepsychiatry consult system for a state Medicaid division reduced outlier pediatric psychiatric medication prescribing, supported local community-delivered treatments, and reduced unnecessary hospitalizations in a financially advantageous manner that was well received by the practice community.

Keywords: behavioral health; pediatrics; pharmacy; telemedicine; telepsychiatry.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Psychiatry*
  • Child
  • Child Psychiatry
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost Savings*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Distance Counseling / economics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • United States
  • Wyoming