Covenant Health implements tele-psych consultations

Jay FitzOur Town Health

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have presented an added challenge for those who need mental and behavioral health care. Covid-19 has also put a strain on emergency medicine resources.


During the pandemic, we have seen that when people suffer from emotional stress, physical illness and mental illness also become exacerbated. These feelings of fear, grief and uncertainty can cause or worsen existing issues such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

Patrick Jensen MD

To increase access to psychiatric services in the emergency room setting, Covenant Health has implemented a new resource for emergency department staff and patients. By using Tele-Psychiatry or “Tele-Psych” appointments, a psychiatrist can remotely evaluate an emergency patient or consult with a medical provider, resulting in timely and efficient treatment and better patient outcomes.

“Benefits of this service include immediate patient-specialist interaction and increased accessibility to psychiatric care, resulting in better overall comprehensive care for people who need mental and behavioral health resources and treatment,” said Patrick Jensen, MD, board-certified psychiatrist with Peninsula Hospital.

“By assessing the patient for a psychiatric emergency at an early stage, we see patients stabilized more quickly and we can begin a treatment plan earlier. This also alleviates the burden on the emergency department staff, who are overwhelmed with the volume of patients they are seeing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Since early September 2021, Dr. Jensen has conducted virtual psychiatric evaluations with emergency room patients who are in need of mental behavioral health assistance. He is available to emergency medicine providers at all nine Covenant Health member hospitals, maximizing the number of patients he can treat. Dr. Jensen’s evaluation includes a risk-assessment and, once a treatment plan is made, psychiatric care and medical care are provided simultaneously. He emphasizes the psychiatric evaluations are not “one and done.” The treatment plan may include frequent follow-up appointments and working together with the hospital staff to provide the best care possible.

“A psychiatric emergency is just as serious as a heart attack,” says Dr. Jensen. “A patient who is experiencing alcohol or substance withdrawal, or who has overdosed, can suffer from delirium, seizures, asphyxiation or other issues that may cause harm to themselves or someone else. Anyone considering suicide or who has attempted suicide is considered a psychiatric emergency.”

“I want to stress that mental health resources are available in our communities. Peninsula offers numerous outpatient resources. There are 18 outreach supervisors across four clinics, and they are an essential link in getting patients the crucial community resources to help them in times of need.”

Information provided by the marketing professionals at Covenant Health.

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