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Allen Hospital gets 'telepsych' technology to address mental health crisis

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UnityPoint Allen Hospital is making some changes this year in response to the mental health crisis.

Right now, mental health patients in Iowa, especially in rural areas, can wait days, or even months, to get the care they need. 

While there's no easy solution to the state's mental health crisis, Allen Hospital says they're hoping some newer technology they have this year can help connect more psychiatrists to Waterloo. 

"Teleheath" is becoming more and more popular across the United States. This is where professionals can use a camera, T.V. and a microphone to talk to patients that are miles away. 

Over at Allen Hospital, they are now using telepsychiatry. This is also known as "telepsych." This technology focuses specifically on connecting psychiatrists from all over the country with mental health patients, getting them the care plan they need at a faster rate. 

Kelly Scheffert, the behavioral health services project manager at Allen Hospital, says it's no secret that Iowa has a shortage of psychiatrists.

"With the lack of psychiatrists in the Cedar Valley, patients are having to wait days, even three to four months, to be seen in the local community."

She says Allen Hospital started using telepsychiatry in January of this year. Since then, she's seen a change. 

Scheffert  says, "Patients aren't having to wait as long in the emergency room setting because this service is 24/7, 365 days a year." 

She adds that this technology is also beneficial because it allows the psychiatrist to see his or her patient. 

"The psychiatrist is able to visualize the patients, picking up their mannerisms, behaviors, or moods. With mental health, that is a huge way of determining what is going on," she says. 

Allen Hospital got their first "telepsych" cart in January. They now have two because of the high demand. 

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