Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Telepsychiatry Is a Tool That We Must Exploit

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Telepsychiatry Is a Tool That We Must Exploit

Article excerpt

As psychiatrists, we are particularly attuned to the value of face-to-face contact with patients. After all, so much is communicated nonverbally.

Fortunately, telepsychiatry has the capacity to give us the information we need to provide effective interventions for patients with mental illness. Even patients with serious mental illness can benefit from these interventions.

Take, for example, a literature review of 390 studies using terms that included "schizophrenia" and/or "telepsychiatry," "telemedicine," or "telepsychology" (Clin. Schizophr. Relat. Psychoses 2014 [doi:10.3371/CSRP.KAFE.021513]). The review, conducted by Dr. John Kasckow of the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Health Care System mental illness research, education, and clinical center and behavioral health service, found that modalities involving the telephone, the Internet, and videoconferencing "appear to be feasible in patients with schizophrenia." Furthermore, they found that those modalities appear to improve patient outcomes, although they acknowledge that more research is needed.

A subset of patients that can benefit from telepsychiatry is those in correctional facilities. Another literature review looked at the implementation of telepsychiatry in correctional facilities in seven states, including my own state of California, and found that the modality "may improve living conditions and safety inside correctional facilities" (Perm. J. 2013 Summer;17:80-6). This review, conducted by Stacie Anne Deslich of the Marshall University in South Charleston, W.Va., and her colleagues, also found that using telepsychiatry improved access and saved those facilities $12,000 to more than $1 million.

These researchers also called for more study, particularly a case-control examination of the cost of providing psychiatric care through telemedicine vs. face-to-face psychiatric treatment. Using telepsychiatry for this population of patients is particularly important in light of depth and breadth of untreated mental illness in correctional facilities, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia. "In addition, costs for providers traveling to distant facilities have been a deterrent to providing adequate care to inmates," Ms. Deslich wrote.

Yet another population of patients that can benefit from telepsychiatry is those with mental illness who come to emergency departments. …

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