Leveraging Technology to Enhance Access to Behavioral Health Services: A Review of Impact, Cost-effectiveness and Challenges | NatCon '19
Physician burnout and stress have reached alarming levels. Psychiatrists are at risk of experiencing burnout due to emotional stressors related to the nature of the clinical work, occupational hazards, changing nature of service delivery, and increasing administrative pressures. Currently, little is known about the impact of telepsychiatry on psychiatrist well-being and burnout. This Open Forum examines potential benefits and challenges of telepsychiatry with regard to psychiatrist stress and burnout. It also discusses the broader implications of telepsychiatry for psychiatrist well-being.
Despite the staggering physical, economic, and societal costs of mental health conditions in the United States, there continues to be a significant gap in mental health service, as access lags behind the demand for them. The uneven distribution of mental health service providers contributes to this gap, making it necessary to incorporate novel approaches to the delivery of mental health services. Telepsychiatry has proven to be one of the more innovative approaches for improving access to mental health services. This article focuses on six challenges that have historically impeded larger-scale adoption of telepsychiatry: limited training, limitations of existing research, security and technology issues, clinical practice challenges, licensure, and reimbursement restrictions. The article discusses recent developments, ongoing advances, and future directions to overcoming these barriers. [Psychiatr Ann. 2019;49(2):82–88.]
The mental health field continues to experience a significant service gap. Despite an increase in demand for psychiatric services, access to care continues to lag. In this context, telepsychiatry, defined as the use of information and communication technologies to provide mental health services remotely via videoconferencing, has emerged as a method to enhance access to care. A large body of evidence supports the use of telepsychiatry as an effective, acceptable, and cost-efficient method of health care delivery that is equivalent to face-to face care.
Degree of service gap in correctional settings
A large percentage of inmates struggle with mental health concerns. However, access to appropriate psychiatric care within correctional settings has been limited due to a variety of factors, including the shortage of clinicians, the geographic locations of correctional settings, and financial issues. In addition, there are staffing and security requirements that can cause delays to care.
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