Telepsychiatry is a process that uses a telecommunications device to provide psychiatric services to people who are separated from a psychiatrist by a distance and those who feel more comfortable at home.
Telepsychiatry may offer several benefits, including convenience and better accessibility.
This article looks at the practicalities and benefits of telepsychiatry.
Telepsychiatry is a branch of telemedicine.
Telemedicine uses technology, which is typically video-based, to provide a range of healthcare services to patients.
Using telepsychiatry, psychiatrists can interact directly with clients via the telephone or video conferencing facilities. Some choose to provide recordings of their medical information.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), telepsychiatry can include the following services:
- psychiatric evaluations and diagnoses
- individual therapy
- group therapy
- family therapy
- client education
- medication management
Telepsychiatry can be effective for many people, providing an alternative option to traditional in-person psychiatric services.
Research indicates that telemedicine is an effective and cost efficient option that increases client access to providers.
According to the APA, there is strong evidence to suggest that telepsychiatry can lead to improved outcomes and high client satisfaction ratings.
They also state that telepsychiatry is equivalent to in-person care in terms of:
- the accuracy of diagnosis
- the effectiveness of treatment
- the quality of care
- client privacy and confidentiality
Telepsychiatry is also an effective method in the treatment of:
According to one 2016 review, most of the included studies confirmed that telepsychiatry was a feasible and acceptable treatment option among all ages.
A significant advantage of telepsychiatry is that it can provide a practical and effective alternative to in-person psychiatric services.
It is suitable for people of all ages, including children, adolescents, and adults. For some people, such as autistic individuals and those with severe anxiety disorders, telepsychiatry may be preferable to face-to-face treatment.
Other benefits may include:
Convenience and accessibility
Telepsychiatry is an option for psychiatrists who need to provide treatment to those in rural and geographically isolated areas.
It can provide an easy way for clients to access psychiatric services if they are unable to travel.
It may also result in a reduction in the need to take time off of work or school.
Quality of care
According to a 2016 review, both clients and providers report high satisfaction levels with telepsychiatry. The report states that parents and caregivers looking for psychiatric services for their children seem particularly satisfied.
The same report states that telepsychiatry appears to be more effective than the usual care.
Some people may also feel more willing to open up from the comfort of their own home.
A 2016 report states that telepsychiatry can be cost effective.
The report summarizes that telepsychiatry reduces the indirect and direct costs compared with face-to-face treatment.
Telepsychiatry works similarly to traditional in-person appointments.
A person will need to contact a local health clinic or a doctor. They will then receive a referral to a psychiatrist.
The clinic, doctor, or client may set up the initial telepsychiatry appointment by contacting the psychiatrist who provides the service.
Once they have an appointment time, the client can log in to the appropriate video conferencing platform and wait for the psychiatrist to come online. Alternatively, they may await a telephone call.
Clients should ensure that they have all relevant records and information, including details of prescriptions, to hand. They should also make a list of questions or concerns to address.
Both in-person and telepsychiatry appointments adhere to the same guidelines and typically follow the same format. The psychiatrist and their client will discuss the relevant issues and goals.
The psychiatrist can:
- create and implement treatment plans
- prescribe medication
- schedule follow-up appointments
- refer the client to other services
Telepsychiatric services are available in many:
- mental health centers
- nursing homes
- primary care centers
- residential treatment facilities
People should check with their insurance provider before scheduling a telepsychiatry session.
People should consider the provider carefully. They may wish to discuss it with their primary care doctor.
Some factors to consider when searching for a provider include:
- licensure or credentialing
- education and training in the field
People should also try to find out more about the costs involved and whether or not their insurance covers telepsychiatry.
Psychiatrists provide telepsychiatry, while psychologists and psychotherapists offer online therapy and counseling services.
Both methods tend to involve direct interaction between a therapist or psychiatrist and the client.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can diagnose conditions and prescribe medication when necessary.
Psychologists, therapists, and counselors are not physicians and cannot prescribe medication. That said, there are some advanced practice registered nurses who are mental health professionals and can prescribe medication.
Psychologists can, however, diagnose a mental health condition. They can work together with psychiatrists. Therapists can also diagnose mental health conditions, but they are not able to administer psychological evaluations.
Telepsychiatry is a form of telemedicine that uses telephone or video conferencing tools to provide psychiatric services.
As with in-person psychiatric treatment, telepsychiatry providers can evaluate and diagnose, provide therapy, and prescribe medication.
Research indicates that telepsychiatry is just as effective as in-person treatment, and it may even be preferable for some people.
Anyone who wishes to find out more about telepsychiatry can speak to their doctor or psychiatrist.