Telemedicine is the process of providing health care from a distance through videoconferencing.
Telepsychiatry, a subset of telemedicine, can involve providing a range of services including mental health evaluations, therapy (individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy), patient education and medication management.
Telepsychiatry can involve direct interaction between a mental health provider and the patient. It also encompasses supporting primary care providers with consultation and expertise. Mental health care can be delivered in a live, interactive communication. It can also involve recording medical information (images, videos, etc.) and sending this to a distant site for later review.
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.
Telepsychiatry allows mental health providers to treat more patients in distant locations. Mental health providers and other clinicians need to be licensed in the state(s) where the patient they are working with is located. State licensing boards and legislatures view the location of the patient as the place where “the practice of medicine” occurs.
Although telepsychiatry has the disadvantage of the patient and mental health provider not being in the same room, it can create enhanced feelings of safety, security and privacy for many patients.
- 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