Thanks to technology psychiatrists can now reach more people than ever before, especially those that are isolated.
Many people are reluctant when it comes to seeking out a psychiatrist. Utilizing something like telepsychiatry can significantly reduce this fear and improve access to quality care.
The issue of improved access to care may be one of the best benefits overall when looking at this modality.
There is strong evidence to suggest telepsychiatry and telemedicine are a growing trend. This type of practice can help overcome many of the barriers to accessibility, including economic and geographic barriers as well as the stigma many people still have when it comes to seeking mental health services.
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What is Telepsychiatry?
Telepsychiatry is a process where you receive mental health counseling or healthcare services via technology. This technology might include videoconferencing or other similar types of methods.
Telepsychiatry is a subset of telemedicine, and it involves receiving a wide range of healthcare services via technology.
These services might include:
- Psychiatric evaluation.
- Therapy sessions.
- Individual or group therapy.
- Patient education.
- Medication management.
- Review of medical images or similar type of information.
Telepsychiatry involves a direct interaction between a psychiatrist and the client or patient. This type of method is delivered in a live, interactive communication.
What are the Benefits?
Telepsychiatry has many advantages and benefits. It is a convenient and often more affordable as well as readily accessible way to access healthcare services without having to drive to an office.
For people who have trouble getting out or for those who can’t easily get around, this is a great option.
Some of the obvious benefits include:
- Better access to mental health care that may not be available in your area.
- A better way to bring a high level of care directly to the patient.
- Fewer trips to the emergency room or hospital.
- Less delay when providing mental health services.
- Improved continuity of care for follow-up work.
- Better access to appointments for those who would otherwise need to schedule childcare or take time off from work.
- Reduction in terms of transportation barriers.
- Less of a stigma when it comes to receiving mental health care.
Many people are reluctant when it comes to seeking out mental health services. Utilizing telepsychiatry can significantly reduce this fear. Often clients will be much more relaxed when utilizing a telepsychiatry session than they would be seeing someone face to face. This benefit alone may be the main advantage overall.
What Does the Research Say?
Finding adequate access to psychiatric care is a big problem all across the world. This modality helps solve that problem simply and effectively.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health problems are a growing public health concern. (Mental health statistics: UK and worldwide, 2017)
According to the research, mental health problems are one of the leading causes of the overall disease burden across the world. (Vos, et al., 2013)
Mental health problems as well as behavioral problems like anxiety, depression and drug use, are reported to be one of the primary drivers when it comes to disability worldwide, causing over 40 million years of disability in those in the 20-29-year-old age range. (Lozano, et al., 2012)
Major depression is surmised to be the second leading cause of disability across the world and a significant contributor to the burden and risk of suicide as well as ischemic heart disease. (Whiteford, et al., 2013)
Research also indicates that one out of every six people in the past week experienced some type of common mental health problem. (McManus, Bebbington, Jenkins, Brugha eds., 2016)
Telepsychiatry and Improved Access
The issue of improved access may be one of the best benefits overall when compared to other methods.
There is strong evidence to suggest this a growing trend as this type of practice can help overcome many of the barriers to accessibility, including:
Modalities like telepsychiatry and telemedicine significantly reduce the overall cost burden for mental healthcare services by offering an affordable option when it comes to delivering service.
Using this modality removes the need for transportation, childcare, lost work hours, and other types of ancillary expenses, which is a huge benefit.
More and more insurance plans are covering this modality, making it both affordable and accessible.
Telepsychiatry is available to anyone with connectivity to the Internet, making it extremely accessible.
Rural areas and areas that are underserved can benefit from this as well.
Telepsychiatry also reduces the additional time and expenses associated with standard treatment. This convenient modality makes crisis intervention more accessible, as well.
One of the biggest roadblocks in the healthcare system is getting psychiatric care to those who need it. Providing a secure platform for people to access and utilize can quickly solve this problem.
The stigma that surrounds mental health is a big obstacle for many to overcome. This stigma, whether imagined or not, discourages people from seeking proper care.
Some people don’t feel comfortable seeking mental health care or visiting a formal office.
Certain groups of clients may also be more inclined to express themselves when compared to a more traditional setting openly.
As practitioners continue to look for ways to improve service and delivery, this is a great option.
Some people may be concerned with their privacy when considering telepsychiatry. Fear of noncompliance with HIPPA and other types of regulations is also a concern for some healthcare providers.
Most reliable providers offer platforms that are HIPPA compliant, so this does not need to be a concern.
As far as privacy concerns, this can easily be overcome by ensuring you have a secure Internet connection.
What Software to Use
Knowing what software to utilize can help you be fully prepared if you plan on trying out this modality with your clients or patients.
The ideal telepsychiatry software would provide a wide range of solutions, from diagnosis and assessment to managing medications to both group and individual therapy.
Many platforms are multi-functional as well, providing not only telepsychiatry services but also services for supporting interactions between psychiatrists and primary care providers and other healthcare providers.
These types of platforms can help support video chats that are HIPPA complaint as well, whereas a generic platform like Skype does not support that.
This platform provides a HIPPA compliant telepsychiatry solution that connects mental health providers with patients to provide high-quality remote care.
It provides an intuitive, user-friendly interface that requires little training. All that is needed to get started is a computer or other compatible device, a webcam, a microphone, and an Internet connection.
The average visit is estimated to save 30-45 minutes per visit, which is a significant cost saving overall.
The interface allows the physician to review a patient’s personal information, their history, their pharmacy preferences, method of insurance as well as their health record.
The Mend platform is another HIPPA secure telemedicine platform. It has robust reporting as well as patient management.
It offers SMS appointment reminders, digital intake and other forms, integrated patient self-scheduling, and a 99% connection rate. There are no downloads to connect to the platform, and the software is easy to install. The software is compatible with all top devices as well.
OnCall Health Platform
It is available on any device or browser and is available for the solo practitioner. The software also provides an appointment calendar, a patient roster, digital files, an analytics dashboard, and booking software. This software offers a comprehensive white label option as well, which can be added to your web, android, and IOS devices.
DrChrono can be used to provide patients with clinical help in the comfort of their own homes.
The platform provides online scheduling and is HIPAA compliant. It also offers video conferencing, which reduces wait time in the clinic and improves the patient experience.
The software provides online scheduling, automated appointment reminders, a HIPPA compliant patient portal, and integrated billing.
TheraNest is another provider of online therapy. The software has a mobile app, a client portal, progress notes, treatment plans, discharge notes, as well as custom forms.
The thera-Link software package offers telehealth solutions that are focused on the mental and behavioral health space.
The online practice management solution includes HIPAA secure video, scheduling, payment built-in, secure messaging, and client session notes. The software also provides file sharing, and a directory listing for clients to find you.
SimplePractice is another telehealth provider offering a fully integrated video solution.
The software offers a calendar, notes, billing, and client communication all combined in one system that also allows you to schedule and conduct unlimited sessions with the click of a button.
The software offers a mobile app, fully paperless intakes, custom notes and forms, secure messaging, free appointment reminders, integrated payments, and a beautiful client portal which is HIPAA compliant.
The ContinuousCare application provides a white-label platform, which can be utilized as your own.
The software includes a mobile app, telemedicine, and remote care plans for those with chronic conditions.
Also included are practice management, a branded patient portal, and the ability to create a website with a unique domain name.
The WiCis CareFlows platform is a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform designed for hospitals, surgery centers as well as solo practices. The platform offers solutions for those with chronic conditions and provides psychiatric evaluations.
The platform is a fully configurable white label telemedicine solution that allows you to brand it as your own.
Some of the features offered include widgets for scheduling, videoconferencing, and remote vital sign monitoring.
PatientClick is a telemedicine platform that provides easy to use, secure televisits.
Features offered include an integrated EMR, eRx, patient scheduling, patient portal, push notifications, and more. You can also customize your PatientClick with unlimited encounter note templates, forms, and reports.
Secure Telehealth is another good solution. The software provides video conferencing on Mac’s and PC’s as well as mobile devices and is HIPAA-compliant.
Features and benefits include a virtual meeting room, which can be used in any number of facilities, a virtual waiting room and facilitates workflow between doctors and patient locations.
The InSync EMR software has many benefits, including EMR practice management, revenue cycle management, and a fully integrated cloud-based healthcare IT solution.
The platform is specially designed for behavioral health practices, and it offers group therapy, constructs care plans, and a wide selection of assessment tools.
Types of Telepsychiatry
There are different types of telepsychiatry.
Some of these include:
- In-home telepsychiatry.
- Crisis telepsychiatry.
- Forensic telepsychiatry.
- Routine telepsychiatry.
In-home telepsychiatry is most likely what you think of when you hear this term. This involves offering psychiatric services and mental health care for those at home, via video chat, or other methods.
Most of the time, the only equipment needed on the patient’s end is a computer, a webcam, and an Internet connection.
Crisis telepsychiatry involves immediate service and responses when it comes to handling a mental health crisis.
This might involve individuals in need of immediate care, those who are suicidal, violent, manic, or severely anxious. This could also be helpful for anyone suffering from an acute panic attack.
Forensic telepsychiatry involves providing mental health care services for those in prison or those in correctional facilities. A psychiatrist could utilize this type of platform for performing regular psychiatric assessments; evaluations for parole, and for providing psychiatric care to inmates in a safe manner. Another benefit to this type of service is the reduced cost and the advantage of not having to transport a prisoner off-site.
Routine solutions are most likely the most significant piece of this type of service. Routine solutions might involve a mental health facility merely wanting to increase their volume or providing a way to outsource mental health services. This could also be beneficial for places where mental health is understaffed.
A Take-Home Message
Telemedicine and telepsychiatry certainly seem to be the wave of the future. With these new technologies, more and more people can now receive desperately needed mental health services.
This technology is reshaping how we look at clinical care and patient education. With more and more advancements, like medication prescribing, there are no limits any longer.
Telemedicine is ideal for those who either can’t get out or those who are reluctant to receive psychiatric services.
Telepsychiatry can be utilized within a variety of practices, including private practice, outpatient clinics, hospitals, correctional facilities, schools, nursing homes, and even military treatment facilities.
In many ways, telepsychiatry is removing the stigma that used to be associated with mental health treatment, which is an excellent thing for patients as well as healthcare providers.
- American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). What is Telepsychiatry? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-telepsychiatry
- Itis Telehealth. (2019, January 23). What Is Telepsychiatry and How is it Used? Retrieved from https://www.iristelehealth.com/telepsychiatry/
- Lozano, R. et al. (2012). Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010. A systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2010. The Lancet. 380(9859), pp. 2095–2128.
- McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf [Accesed 5 October 2016]
- Mental Health Foundation. (2017, March 9). Mental health statistics: UK and worldwide. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-uk-and-worldwide
- Vos, T. et al. (2013) Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet. 386, (9995). pp. 743-800.
- Whiteford, H. A. et al. (2013). Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet. 382, (9904). pp. 1575-1586.