Does telepsychiatry make sense for you?
Telepsychiatry is the process of providing health care from a distance through technology, often using videoconferencing. Telepsychiatry, a subset of telemedicine, can involve providing a range of services including psychiatric evaluations, therapy (individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy), patient education and medication management.
Telepsychiatry often involves direct interaction between a psychiatrist and the patient. It also encompasses psychiatrists supporting primary care providers with mental health care consultation and expertise. Mental health care can be delivered in a live, interactive communication.
Video-based telepsychiatry helps meet patients’ needs for convenient, affordable and readily-accessible mental health services. It can benefit patients in a number of ways, such as:
Improve access to mental health specialty care that might not otherwise be available (e.g., in rural areas)
Bring care to the patient’s location
Help integrate behavioral health care and primary care, leading to better outcomes
Reduce the need for trips to the emergency room
Reduce delays in care
Improve continuity of care and follow-up
Reduce the need for time off work, childcare services, etc. to access appointments far away
Reduce potential transportation barriers, such as lack of transportation or the need for long drives
Reduce the barrier of stigma
While some people may be reluctant or feel awkward talking to person in a screen, experience shows most people are comfortable with it. Some people may be more relaxed and willing to open up from the comfort of their home or a convenient local facility. Also, this will likely be less of a problem as people become more familiar and comfortable with video communication in everyday life.
Our psychiatrist Dr. Lacy is licensed in the state of Hawaii and Florida. Although telepsychiatry has the disadvantage of the patient and psychiatrist not being in the same room, it can create enhanced feelings of safety, security and privacy for many patients.
Evidence for Effectiveness
There is substantial evidence of the effectiveness of telepsychiatry and research has found satisfaction to be high among patients, psychiatrists and other professionals. Telepsychiatry is equivalent to in-person care in diagnostic accuracy, treatment effectiveness, quality of care and patient satisfaction. Patient privacy and confidentiality are equivalent to in-person care.
Research has also found that overall experiences among all age groups have been good. There is evidence for children, adolescents and adults regarding assessment and treatment (medication and therapy). There are even people for which telemedicine may be preferable to in-person care, for example people with autism or severe anxiety disorders and patients with physical limitations may find the remote treatment particularly useful.
Telepsychiatry has been found especially effective with respect to the treatment of PTSD, depression, and ADHD.
Cost & Insurance
Thirty-two states have legislated that private insurance cover telemedicine, according to the American Telemedicine Association (as of July 2016, see map below).