[Skip to Content]

SUNY Upstate Medical University studies benefits of providing psychiatric care via telemedicine technology

Inmates in need of psychiatric care in the Franklin County Jail in Malone are being examined by a physician at SUNY Upstate Medical University 180 miles away in Syracuse as part of a study measuring the feasibility of providing psychiatric care using video conferencing equipment.

"We're interested in finding out how effective telepsychiatry is in improving outcomes for incarcerated individuals with mental health and substance abuse problems," said Luisa Manfredi, J.D., adjunct assistant professor in SUNY Upstate's Department of Psychiatry. "We are also interested in finding out how cost effective it is to deliver psychiatric care to this population via telemedicine."

Since last fall, 18 inmates have been seen as patients for the study. The patient enters a secure room within the jail and sits in front of a TV camera and TV monitor. About 180 miles away, a psychiatrist sits in a SUNY Upstate office, complete with a telemedicine hookup that enables him to interview the patient, listen to responses and even observe reactions. From these two hour treatment sessions, the psychiatrist is able to determine if the patient needs additional counseling, drug treatment or other therapies. Prior to the exam, the doctor reviews material on each patient and discusses any pressing issues with the jail's psychiatric social worker. Each patient is informed that all information being transmitted is confidential and secure via dedicated phone lines.

Early indications suggest that telepsychiatry