Public Release: 

Improving depression in nursing home rehab patients through telemedicine

Rhode Island and the Miriam hospitals to lead pilot project with Evergreen House patients


PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A new pilot study is getting underway in Rhode Island aimed at improving depression in nursing home rehabilitation patients, all through telemedicine. Geriatric mental health specialists from Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals will work with patients in the Evergreen House Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in East Providence to test the program.

Thomas Sheeran, Ph.D., M.E., a clinical psychologist in the department of psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital, is the principal investigator on the study. Sheeran says, "Depression is very common in nursing home patients, and there are not enough geriatric mental health professionals to provide services. We need to find creative ways to better help these individuals."

Through a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, the two hospitals and nursing facility have partnered with Breakthrough, a technology company based in Palo Alto, Calif., that connects mental health professionals with clients via secure video, email and chat. Sheeran explains, "Videoconferencing technology has traditionally been very expensive, but today's internet-based platforms are increasingly providing high-quality and secure connections. Telemedicine allows mental health professionals to reach more people than they otherwise could, especially among seniors who may have mobility challenges."

Breakthrough CEO Mark Goldenson says, "We are thrilled to help Rhode Island Hospital, The Miriam Hospital and Evergreen House improve care for their elderly patients. Telebehavioral care is accessible, private, and lets providers help patients from almost anywhere."

Evergreen House Medical Director Allen Dennison, M.D., states, "Evergreen House is a community of supportive and personalized care, and we are very excited to be a community partner in this project to improve the quality of life for our residents."

Sheeran and his colleagues began the pilot project in November and will report the results in the summer of 2012. If successful, the researchers hope to expand the program to more nursing homes and to conduct a full randomized trial to test the effectiveness of the intervention.


Sheeran, who is also an assistant professor at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, will be working with colleagues Christina Sokoloff, R.N., P.C.N.S., director of The Miriam Hospital Long Term Behavioral Health Progam, Romina Smulever, M.D., board certified adult and geriatric psychiatrist and assistant professor at Alpert Medical School, and Gayle Gaboriault, R.N., S.D.C., of Evergreen House, all geriatric and geriatric mental health professionals.

About the project partners:

Rhode Island Hospital Founded in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital ( in Providence, R.I., is a private, not-for-profit hospital and is the principal teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. A major trauma center for southeastern New England, the hospital is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research. The hospital receives nearly $50 million each year in external research funding and is home to Hasbro Children's Hospital, the state's only facility dedicated to pediatric care. It is a founding member of the Lifespan health system.

The Miriam Hospital

The Miriam Hospital ( is a 247-bed, not-for-profit teaching hospital affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. It offers expertise in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, men's health, and minimally invasive surgery and is home to the state's first Joint Commission-certified Stroke Center and robotic surgery program. The hospital is nationally known for its HIV/AIDS and behavioral and preventive medicine research, including weight control, physical activity and smoking cessation. The Miriam Hospital has been awarded Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services four times and is a founding member of the Lifespan health system.

Evergreen House Health Center

Located in eastern Rhode Island, Evergreen House Health Center ( is committed to providing a high quality of life for each resident. The personalized nursing care residents receive is a reflection of this commitment. Daily activities such as movies, outings, parties, crafts and religious services are planned by the activities director to enhance their social needs. The elegance of the nursing home's interior and the beauty of its outer surroundings make Evergreen House a place residents feel proud to call home. Other services offered include inpatient rehabilitation therapy, specialized Alzheimer's care, oxygen therapy, and much more.


Breakthrough ( connects behavioral health professionals with clients for secure online care. delivers an online directory of credentialed mental health professionals, a HIPAA-compliant teleheath platform, and a suite of features for behavioral health professionals to enhance their practice. is headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

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