The team at Genoa Telepsychiatry sometimes forgets how new the term ‘telepsychiatry’ may be to those unfamiliar with this sector of healthcare. We've written this post to help give our readers a better understanding of what telepsychiatry is and what makes us roll out of bed every morning at Genoa Telepsychiatry.
One of the biggest problems in mental public health is a shortage of psychiatrists and transportation barriers. Telepsychiatry and the broader umbrella telemental health, are applications of telemedicine, the electronic delivery of healthcare services, to the specialty field of psychiatry. This typically entails administration of psychiatric assessments, therapeutic services and medication management through telecommunications technology, most commonly videoconferencing (1).
Ultimately, telepsychiatry leverages the power of technology to make behavioral healthcare more accessible to patients, rather than patients having to overcome barriers, like time and cost of lengthy travel, to access the care they need. The benefits of this model of healthcare extend to hospitals, clinics and patient populations across the country; however, the inherent ease of access is especially advantageous to those located in rural or remote areas where psychiatrists are hard to find.
John Fortnery, a medical geographer, states that travel barriers, particularly long distances, affect people’s use of healthcare, specifically whether or not to seek care, what type of services to use, and how often to engage in treatment. For individuals with mental health disorders that often means forgoing seeking care because referrals are too far away, or taking psychotropic medications (any medication affecting the mind, emotion and behavior) prescribed by their primary care provider instead of engaging with a mental health specialist for medication management coupled with psychotherapy. Telepsychiatry technologies and resources provide more options for behavioral health patients living in rural areas and enable improved access to services that best meet their needs (3).
All telepsychiatry equipment in use today should be HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant. This allows patients' protected health information (PHI) to stay secure and private. You can check out our blog post about the different models of telemental health to learn about the various settings telepsychiatry can take place, but in general, telepsychiatry is just like any other medical appointment- the only difference is that it’s conducted via live videoconferencing.
The growing need for technology-assisted healthcare is driven by the objective to reduce hospital readmission rates, track health progression, and make healthcare accessible to everyone in need (4). Technology is continually improving different aspects of our lives and now, more so than ever, is booming in the healthcare sector. Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) describes this revolution stating, “think about how many people wouldn’t go to a bank that doesn’t have an ATM” (4). Soon healthcare consumers will think the same thing about hospitals without telemedicine.
In the recent years, about 400,000 patients received mental health services via telemedicine and that number continues to grow annually (4). By bringing in specialists via telemedicine, facilities are able to reduce the risk that patients will not return due to lack of specialized care, and reduce the cost of having a specialist physically on-site. As medicine continues to progress there is no need for so many physicians traveling from site to site. Telemedicine is clearly the way of the future.
All in all - telepsychiatry is more patient focused but also eases some of the burdens clinics are facing with shortages in psychiatrist and an increasing behavioral health patient population.
For more information, here are some helpful links for you to check out:
- The US News says telepsychiatry is the frontier in Mental Health
- The American Telemedicine Association is a great website for broad overview
- Psychiatry Times has a whole page on telepsychiatry
- Research investigating telepsychiatry in the 21st century
Feel free to contact us if you still have questions about telepsychiatry and what we do to simplify the process of accessing care.