what is telepsychiatry

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What is Telepsychiatry?

Telepsychiatry is an innovative practice in healthcare that applies telemedicine to the field of psychiatry. It generally refers to the delivery of psychiatric assessment and care via telecommunications technology, usually videoconferencing.

There’s no question that a lack of access to proper psychiatric care is one of the biggest struggles of the American public health system. While psychiatry is traditionally one of the branches of medicine least affected by technological change, recent advances in videoconferencing technology have proven effective in bringing professional mental health care to underserved populations.

This practice — known as telepsychiatry — is one of the most promising developments in the fight to provide more patient-centered, affordable and effective interventions for individuals who need psychiatric care.

On this page, we look at some of the basics of telepsychiatry and attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions, both by patients seeking treatment and mental health professionals or organizations that are considering expanding their practice.

Background: The Scope of the Problem

Economics, geography and the persistent stigma around seeking help are some of the most commonly cited barriers to accessing mental health services. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of American adults suffer from a mental illness, and almost half will experience one at some point in their life. Despite popular narratives about overdiagnosis and overmedication, these figures indicate that too few people are being properly treated for their illnesses.

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What Is Telepsychiatry’s Role in Improving Access?

The full benefits of telepsychiatry are currently being explored, and there is already strong evidence to suggest that this practice can help overcome some of the barriers to accessibility. Here’s how:

what is telepsychiatry
Economics — Telemedicine can decrease the cost of mental health care by providing an affordable framework for delivering service. Patients don’t have to worry about transportation, childcare, lost work hours, or other ancillary expenses involved in visiting a remote specialist’s office. In most states where telemedicine is covered by insurance, coverage is generally equal to that of a conventional doctor’s visit.
what is telepsychiatry
Geography — Telepsychiatry makes quality mental health care available in any clinic with an internet connection. Rural areas are typically the most underserved for all areas of health care, and psychiatry is no exception. By eliminating the additional time and expense associated with travel, telepsychiatry makes it easier to intervene faster in crisis situations, and to streamline intake into inpatient facilities.
what is telepsychiatry
Stigma — The stigma around mental health care often discourages individuals from seeking help, but telemedicine can make care accessible to individuals who may not feel comfortable visiting a psychiatrist’s office. Certain groups of patients may also be more inclined to open up while they’re communicating electronically rather than face-to-face. As healthcare practitioners continue to look for ways to improve service delivery, and mental health care becomes an increasingly large economic burden on public health systems, the future of telemedicine looks promising.

Privacy and Telemedicine

Online privacy is a concern of anyone using the internet. Fear of noncompliance with HIPAA and other regulations has dissuaded many organizations from adopting the practice of telehealth services. Fortunately, there’s no need for a major investment in additional network security devices or videoconferencing equipment to begin practicing telepsychiatry.

Most modern offices have the infrastructure they need already, and with assistance from a HIPAA-compliant service provider such as Iris Telehealth, getting up and running with the right equipment — and integrating with your existing EHR system — is fast and easy.

A Patient’s Experience

What does telepsychiatry look like for a typical patient? In most cases, the process of getting help changes little. Patients first visit their primary care provider or contact a mental health clinic in their area to discuss their concerns. The individual will then be provided with a referral to see an Iris Telehealth psychiatrist or mental health specialist, and the clinic will arrange a time for an appointment. When the time comes, the patient will visit their regular local care center, where they will be taken to a private room for a one-on-one videoconference with the specialist.

The content of the appointment will be exactly the same as if it were taking place in person. Our doctors can discuss the issue in detail, make a treatment plan and even prescribe medicine through telepsychiatry. Any follow-up appointments or further referrals can be conducted much in the same way, saving the patient considerable travel time and related expenses.

Getting Started

Iris Telehealth has helped countless hospitals and community health organizations across the country add telepsychiatry to their list of services. We believe everyone should have access to compassionate mental health care, and we have made it our mission to find innovative, affordable ways of making this possible!

If you’re considering using telepsychiatry in your organization, we would like to help! To learn more, contact an Iris Telehealth representative today.