Telepsychiatry is an evolving field in the treatment of mental illness. Although it is used since 1950, its application is widely expanded in the past one decade. Telepsychiatry is defined as the use of technology to communicate with the people and provide psychiatry services from a distance. It requires a collaborative and supportive team consisting of patients, psychiatrists, referring physicians, nurses, families, and health care facilities. Telepsychiatry is very feasible and is applicable to a wide range of patient population having diverse cultural backgrounds. It can also be used in different clinical settings and is proven to be effective in reducing disease severity in several disorders like anxiety, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and psychosis. Telepsychiatry is effective both clinically and academically. Clinically, it is used for diagnosing and managing the patient, conducting neuropsychological testing, and providing psychotherapy. Academically telepsychiatry can be used for education, training, and research purposes. Although it is very effective in many ways, few challenges in this field include training and recruiting physicians who can provide care using such services, access to patients, and continuously update health care facilities with the recent advancements in the information and communication technology.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS OF TELEPSYCHIATRY
Using telepsychiatry will help physicians to develop different options for treating the patients innovatively. Therefore, all the physicians should be encouraged to learn about this emerging field. There are many training programs and organizations to assist the physicians helping them to get more insight about telepsychiatry. Few resources include Telehealth Resource Centers (TRC’s), The American Telemedicine Association (ATA), and American Psychiatric Association (APA). APA is guiding psychiatrists to explore more about Telepsychiatry. There is also a Tool Kit which is a resource for the physicians to understand the clinical implications, challenges, different policies, and training involved in telepsychiatry.
Telepsychiatry has robust evidence in diagnostic accuracy, treatment outcomes, and in patient satisfaction. In order to use telepsychiatry, it must be easily acceptable and available for the provider and patient, safe to use, cost effective, physicians should have licensure and insurance to treat the patients. It is found that it is as effective as in-person encounters and it can also be used as an alternative to it. It also helps is bridging the gap between the patients and the clinicians. It is also very competent not only for the rural population but also for people in different geographic locations, home-bound people or patients with disabilities, and patients with avoidant personality. However, despite the increasing use of telepsychiatry, there might be few patients and physicians who are reluctant to use it. More insight should be provided to the physicians regarding how to use the technology, and whom to approach if there is any issue in the session.
by Dr. Hema Madhuri Mekala MD
Psychiatry Resident, Griffin Memorial Hospital (Norman, OK)