ESTABLISHED: January 2012
OWNER: Doug Wilson
LOCATION: 2829 Westown Parkway, Ste. 220, West Des Moines

The problem:
Iowa’s shortage of psychiatrists means that patients in rural areas may wait days for an inpatient psychiatric bed or weeks for an outpatient appointment. In some cases, patients are being transported across the state to clinics for mental health services.

The innovation:
While working with psychiatrists and clinics as a pharmaceutical sales representative, Doug Wilson realized that telemedicine had the potential to help clinics efficiently connect patients with psychiatrists. Existing telemedicine companies were providing psychiatric services to clinics primarily as short-term or stopgap solutions, so Wilson wanted to figure out a more efficient, strategic approach. His company, eVizzit LLC, has collaborated with Pathways Behavioral Services, a mental health clinic in Waterloo, to provide telepsychiatry services through five community mental health centers at 13 sites in northeast and northern Iowa. The biggest benefit to clients is the ability to provide more efficient care. With a click of a mouse, providers can connect to a different clinic immediately versus jumping in their cars or expecting patients to come to them. 

How they did it:
Currently, eVizzit has contracts with nine psychiatrists to provide telepsychiatry services - three in Iowa as well as six others located as far away as New York, California and Florida. The contracted psychiatrists range from those doing it on a part-time basis to supplement their practice to those who practice exclusively via telepsychiatry. The company received seed money from County Social Services, a regional consortium that serves 22 rural counties in northern and northeast Iowa, and began operations in September 2013. 

“Our strategy to grow the business is to work with clinics to really expand their access points,” Wilson said. For instance, eVizzit is the sole psychiatric provider for one of the rural mental health clinics it currently serves. At that clinic, patients are being driven in from several residential and long-term care facilities for a videoconference with a psychiatrist.  “We can just as easily provide care at (the patients’ facilities) as them being driven to the clinic,” he said. The patients who are seen through videoconferencing help to reduce the overall workload somewhat for already frazzled psychiatrists scrambling to see patients in person, Wilson noted. 

“The piece that eVizzit is really focused on right now is making sure that clinics and facilities know how to efficiently use the providers once they get them,” he said. His company also recently began providing telepsychiatry services at a rural hospital, a niche Wilson wants to expand to other rural hospitals. 

The telepsychiatry service also allows patients to be seen by videoconference during non-business hours, in particular, patients who are residents of a care facility. For instance, eVizzit provides telepsychiatry services for county jail inmates in County Social Services’ service area on Saturdays as well as on Wednesday evenings. 

“Once we have enough revenue to be self-sustaining, the plan is to roll it out to mental health clinics throughout the state,” Wilson said. 

The payoff:
The feedback and the results have been extremely positive, Wilson said. “Actually, every customer has bought additional provider time from us; we think that’s a great indicator,” he said. “The clinics have been pleased, and the patients have had great feedback. It just really helps fill a need for the clinics.” Wilson estimates his company, which currently has one employee besides himself and leases space at the West Des Moines Business Incubator, should be profitable by the end of 2015.