Test program connects depressed nursing home residents with geriatric psychologists

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A pilot study in one Rhode Island health system is testing a telemedicine system to improve depression in nursing home rehabilitation residents.

Depression is common in nursing home residents, according to geriatric mental health experts, but there is a currently a shortage of mental health professionals to help treat this population. Thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, two hospitals and one nursing home are partnering with a technology firm to bridge the gap between residents and mental health workers.

California-based Breakthrough is providing Internet-based teleconferencing technologies that will allow residents to interact with therapists via secure video, email and chat platforms. The study's principal investigator, Thomas Sheeran, Ph.D. at Rhode Island Hospital, says that videoconferencing equipment used to be cost-prohibitive, but that recent advances now allow for high-quality, secure connections.

“Telemedicine allows mental health professionals to reach more people than they otherwise could, especially among seniors who may have mobility challenges," Sheeran said.
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