Findings from Research into Telepsychiatry
There is an urgent need for innovative approaches to delivering mental health services. These innovative approaches would boost access to evidence-based care. Telepsychiatry is one such innovative approach. Telepsychiatry is a form of mental health care delivery through video conferencing, for example, consulting your psychiatrist via Skype.
Telepsychiatry has great potential to tackle disparities in mental health by making mental healthcare accessible to people living in rural and regional areas. Advancements in medical technology have accelerated the growth of telepsychiatry. Many large healthcare organizations such as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the Medicare in Australia have adopted telepsychiatry as a means of delivering mental health services. In this article, we will highlight important findings from scientific research in telepsychiatry.
For a start, telemedicine refers to the provision of healthcare from a distance through the use of technology, in many cases, videoconferencing. Telepsychiatry falls under the umbrella terms of telemedicine. It includes the provision of a wide range of services such as psychiatric evaluations, patient education, therapy, and medication management.
Telepsychiatry involves direct interaction between a patient and his or her psychiatrist, for example, communicating with your psychiatrist via Skype. It also involves the provision of support (mental care expertise and consultation) by psychiatrists to primary care providers.
The majority of the studies reported that patients were satisfied with telepsychiatry services. A review of studies and research conducted in 2016 on telepsychiatry, published in the World Journal of Psychiatry found that 23 out of 31 studies concluded that the patients had a “good” to “excellent” experience with telepsychiatry services. 7 studies generated mixed reactions from the patients. Prominent positive themes include ease of use and decreased burden of transportation to and from appointments.
The Tripple Aim Framework of providing health services focuses on care, cost-effectiveness and health needs. The authors of the above mentioned study reviewed over 500 studies on telepsychiatry and concluded that this form of service delivery does meet those three needs.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
The researchers went on to say that "the evidence reviewed suggest that telepsychiatry is comparable to FTF (face-to-face) in the reliability of assessment and effective treatment of a range of behavioral and mental health disorders".
Some downsides to telepsychiatry are the challenges dealing with psychiatric emergencies and limited internet connectivity in some remote regions.
Telepsychiatry allows the patient to meet their needs for affordable, convenient, and readily-accessible mental health services. Other benefits include:
Bringing care to the patient’s doorstep
Integration of primary and behavioral healthcare, leading to a better prognosis.
Cutting down on the number of trips to the emergency room
Unnecessary delays in care are reduced
Improved care continuity and follow-up
Reducing off-work time, need for childcare services, etc. to attend to a distant appointment.
Minimizing transportation barriers, such as long drive periods or lack of transportation.
While some people may feel uncomfortable talking to someone on a screen, for example with a psychiatrist via Skype, our experience at Epsychiatry shows that many of our clients in WA are open to it. To those that aren't we provide regional psychiatry clinics. Some people feel relaxed and disclose more information from the comfort of their homes. Also, this poses lesser problems as people become more comfortable and familiar with video communication in daily life.