Relevance to the Underserved Issue

Telepsychiatry is currently one of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas.

Summary of Key Information

Telepsychiatry, or telemedicine, is a specifically defined form of video conferencing that can provide psychiatric services to patients living in remote locations or otherwise underserved areas. It can connect patients, psychiatrists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals through the use of television cameras and microphones. Telemedicine currently provides an array of services, including but not limited to diagnosis and assessment; medication management; and individual and group therapy. It also provides an opportunity for consultative services between psychiatrists, primary care physicians and other healthcare providers. Telepsychiatry is also being used to provide patients with second opinions in areas where only one psychiatrist is available. Telepsychiatry has been shown to improve collaborative services between professionals. Studies indicate that healthcare professionals feel telepsychiatry has given them an opportunity to work more effectively as a team. Patients surveyed say they felt that the communication between their physicians had improved their outcomes. There are a few barriers to providing telepsychiatry services. Reimbursement is still difficult to receive, especially through third-party payers, and licensure can be difficult to obtain.  Overall, telepsychiatry provides increased access to services and has helped enhance the provision of services to families with children and other patients who are homebound. Patients participating in telepsychiatry say they are satisfied with the care they are receiving and that they feel telepsychiatry is a reliable form of practice.

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