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History of Telepsychiatry

  • The History of Telepsychiatry
  • Alexander Von Hafften, M.D.

The use of videoconferencing in psychiatry began during the 1950s:

  • In 1959, the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute was using early videoconferencing to provide group therapy, long-term therapy, consultation-liaison psychiatry, and medical student training at the Nebraska state hospital in Norfolk.
  • In 1969, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) provided psychiatric consultations of adults and children at a Logan International Airport health clinic. During the 1970s-80s it became increasingly common, expanding to most diagnostic and therapeutic interactions.
  • By the 1990s, it spread further across the world, particularly in Australia, and research began on its ability to facilitate access to care, overcome geographical obstacles and how it compared to in-person care.
  • By the 2000s, the field began to see it as effective, but slightly different, than in-person care, and research in outcome studies provided a platform for practice guidelines (e.g. the American Telemedicine Association). Its application to many cultures and international venues has been successful and the APA and ATA have helped to disseminate information to national organizations.
  • Telepsychiatry is equivalent to in-person care in diagnostic accuracy, treatment effectiveness, and patient satisfaction; it often saves time, money and other resources.
  • Patient privacy and confidentiality issues parallel in-person care.
  • Telepsychiatry effectively leverages specialty expertise, which facilitates health care reform (e.g., patient-centered care and integrated care).


  • Bashshur RL, Shannon GW. History of telemedicine evolution, context, and transformation; Mary Ann Liebert, New Rochelle NY 2009:384-390.
  • Hilty DM, Ferrer DC, Parish MB, et al. The Effectiveness of telemental health: A 2013 review. Telemed J E Health 2013;(19):444-454.
  • Hilty DM, Liu W, Marks SL, et al. Effectiveness of telepsychiatry: A brief review. Can Psychiatry Assoc Bull 2003;(Oct):10-17.
  • Liebson, E. Telepsychiatry: Thirty-five years’ experience. Medscape Psych & Mental Health E Journal 1997;2(4).
  • Yellowlees PM, Shore JH, Roberts L, et al. Practice Guidelines for Videoconferencing-Based Telemental Health. Tel e-Health 2010;16(10):1074-89.

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