While the approaches to promoting mental health are as varied as the conditions treated, telemedicine is transforming how providers across the spectrum care for patients. Whether patients receive treatment from their community health center, primary care physician (PCP) or in specialized settings, like corrections, telepsychiatry is a proven way to care for patients with a variety of mental health needs.Practicing telepsychiatry in a way that mirrors in-person care can offer several advantages, including improved collaboration among providers, modernizing the perception of mental health and removing physical barriers to care. Here’s a closer look at how telemedicine is promoting mental health care.
1. Enhancing collaboration
“Collaboration is the hallmark of the integrated care model in telepsychiatry,” says Dr. Hossam Mahmoud, Regroup’s medical director. Regardless of the treatment setting, telepsychiatry can serve as a conduit for collaboration. Under the integrated care model, the telepsychiatrist works closely with the facility’s in-house team to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for each patient. “In contrast, when a patient is treated with little to no collaboration between the psychiatrist and PCP, we run the risk for treatment fragmentation,” Dr. Mahmoud says.
This collaboration decreases redundancies, allowing the patient to receive seamless care from one setting to the next. It also prevents splitting – when a patient presents differently to various clinicians.
Patients can benefit not only from direct telepsychiatry care, but also from consultation services offered to their PCPs. By tapping into a healthcare facility’s telepsych program, the PCP can ask a telepsychiatrist about diagnostic criteria, psychotherapy and other relevant issues. This allows PCPs to treat some mental health issues on their own, while referring more severe cases to a behavioral health provider, making the most efficient use of the facility’s resources.
2. Modernizing perceptions
“For some people, mental health treatment still evokes an image of a Freud-like psychiatrist with a white beard, with the patient lying on a couch,” Mahmoud says. Telepsychiatry helps dispel this myth by bringing in cutting-edge technology into mental health care provision.
Clinicians can conduct sessions anywhere capable of supporting the basic technological and privacy requirements. Patients can meet with their telepsychiatrist from the comfort of their nearby community health facility or PCP’s office. Therefore, telepsychiatry is making it easier then ever to access mental health care.
3. Providing access
Telepsychiatry’s biggest impact has been on increasing mental health care access to many populations in need that had long gone without it. For many Americans living in mental health shortage settings such as certain rural areas and correctional facilities, telepsychiatry is an effective and efficient way to offer treatment.
With telepsychiatry, rural residents don’t have to spend the time and money traveling great distances to a psychiatrist’s office. Rather, they can easily head over to their community health facility or PCP office, and have their telepsychiatry session close to home. “It’s making care more convenient,” Mahmoud says.
And for the approximately 15 percent of inmates in state prisons with serious mental illness, having access to telepsychiatry services means having the opportunity to receive care and engage in recovery.
Effective treatment, convenient delivery
By championing collaborative care, incorporating state-of-the-art technology into the field of psychiatry, and removing barriers for patients to access care, telepsychiatry is promoting mental health care that better meets the needs of the patients where they are in a way that fits their lifestyle.