Certainly, there is an urgent need for innovative approaches to delivering mental health services. Moreover, these innovative approaches would boost access to evidence-based care. Telepsychiatry is one such innovative approach. That is to say; it is a form of mental health care delivery through video conferencing. For example, consulting your psychiatrist via Skype. Further, learn how do telehealth works and the evidence behind it?
Certainly, 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. That is to say, many large healthcare organizations such as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and 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 healthcare providers from a distance through technology, in many cases, videoconferencing. That is to say; telepsychiatry falls under the umbrella terms of telemedicine. Moreover, it includes providing a wide range of services such as psychiatric evaluations, patient education, therapy, and medication management.
This involves direct interaction between a patient and their psychiatrist. For example, communicating with your psychiatrist via Skype. Further, it also involves providing support (mental care expertise and consultation) by psychiatrists to primary care providers.
Certainly, 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 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 suggests that telepsychiatry is comparable to FTF (face-to-face) in the reliability of assessment and effective treatment of a range of behavioural 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 patients 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 behavioural 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.
- Reduce stigmatization
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.