Telehealth Psychiatrist – Overview
Telemedicine is the method used to provide healthcare from a remote location using advanced communication technology, such as video conferencing. Telehealth psychiatry, also called Telepsychiatry, is a sub-topic under telemedicine. Two-way closed-circuit television for medical treatment, psychiatry, and education has been used by the University of Nebraska Medical Center since 1959. (1)
Telehealth psychiatry provides various mental healthcare services such as psychiatric evaluation, therapies, medication management, and patient education. Telehealth psychiatrists interact directly with patients and provide comprehensive psychiatric support to primary healthcare providers through mental health consultation and care.
Telehealth psychiatrists can deliver mental healthcare services in a live, interactive communication session. This can involve recording medical information, such as videos, images, etc. and storing the information on a server for later use.
Benefits of Telehealth Psychiatrist
Telehealth psychiatrists help meet patients’ healthcare needs with convenient, affordable, easy-to-access mental health services. There are several benefits of using telehealth psychiatrist services, including:
- Bringing mental healthcare to the patient
- Improving access to mental healthcare in difficult-to-access areas
- Reducing the time and money spent on trips to the emergency room
- Helping to integrate behavioral healthcare and primary care for better results
- Improving continuity of care and follow-up
- Reducing delays in receiving mental healthcare services
- Reducing the social stigma associated with mental health issues
- Lowering time off work, childcare service charges, transportation expenses, etc.
- Decreasing potential transportation barriers, such as lack of transportation or long traveling distances.
Though some patients may feel awkward or reluctant to talk to their doctor on a screen, studies show that many people are more comfortable with it. Some patients tend to feel relaxed and are willing to be more open as they are comfortable at their home or a convenient local healthcare facility. Additionally, telehealth psychiatrist services will become more popular as more patients get used to their efficiency and convenience.
Telehealth psychiatry allows mental healthcare professionals to treat patients from distant locations. Certified psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians can only work in the state they are licensed for. State licensing norms and rules view the patient’s location as the place where “the practice of medicine” is conducted.
Though telehealth psychiatry means that the psychiatrist and patient are not in the same room, it can effectively enhance the feeling of privacy, security, and safety for patients who are in the comfort of their homes.
Effectiveness of Telehealth Psychiatry Services
Various research studies conducted on Telepsychiatry show significant evidence of the method’s effectiveness. These studies have found substantial satisfaction among patients, psychiatrists, and other mental healthcare professionals.
Telehealth psychiatry is considered equal to in-person mental healthcare services regarding diagnostic accuracy, quality of care, treatment effectiveness, and patient satisfaction. Telehealth psychiatry also ensures confidentiality and patient privacy on par with conventional in-person mental healthcare evaluation.
Studies have also shown that the experience of most patients using telehealth psychiatry is good for all age groups, including children, adolescents and adults. Besides this, many patients usually find Telepsychiatry to be preferable to in-person care, such as people with autism or severe anxiety disorders and those with physical limitations.
Telehealth psychiatric services have been found to be extremely effective in treating PTSD, ADHD and depression.
Applications of Telehealth Psychiatry
Telepsychiatry is used in various types of settings, such as outpatient clinics, private practices, hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, nursing homes and military treatment facilities.
Using this innovative technology, patients find it easier to schedule appointments on their own with their psychiatrist or therapist. This appointment is conducted through live video communication technology. This can be done with your regular mental healthcare provider or through any of the companies that offer mental health clinicians for virtual appointments.
However, patients need to be careful to plan ahead and be ready for the appointment, just like they would do for an in-person visit. Ensure all relevant documents and records are handy, including medical prescriptions and a list of questions to ask the psychiatrist.
Today, telehealth psychiatry is helping increasing numbers of people by delivering mental healthcare services, even to emergency rooms. Research shows that around 1 in 8 emergency room visits relate to a mental health and/or substance abuse cause, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
As most emergency rooms are not equipped to manage such patients due to a lack of certified healthcare professionals on staff, telehealth psychiatry services are a boon for the mental healthcare industry.
Cost of Telehealth Psychiatry Services
As of now, 43 states in the US have regulations governing private-payer reimbursement for telehealth. All states reimburse for some form of live video telehealth in Medicaid as Free-For-Services. In comparison, only 16 states in the country have Medicaid plans that reimburse for store-and-forward services or asynchronous telemedicine (recorded sessions).
Telehealth psychiatrists are more affordable, effective and convenient than conventional in-person visits to mental healthcare professionals. This technology is effectively enhancing and expanding the scope of mental healthcare services across a wide spectrum of settings, including schools, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and even emergency rooms.