What is Telepsychiatry?

You may be hearing more about telehealth and telepsychiatry in the news. What is the difference?

Telehealth refers to health care services that delivered remotely – most commonly through televideo. Some people would consider other forms of remote communication to be telehealth – things like email, text messages, patient portals, etc. If your primary care office has not started using telehealth, they will be soon. Primary care will soon be required to increase patient access to healthcare through video, phone, and internet in the hopes that it will improve patient engagement and health outcomes.

Telepsychiatry refers to psychiatric services delivered remotely. In the past, telepsychiatry was considered to be inferior to face-to-face appointments and was strongly discouraged by medical boards and insurance companies. No longer! Given the shortage of psychiatrists, especially in rural areas, telepsychiatry is becoming more common and more accepted by the medical community. There is also research to suggest that telepsychiatry is just as effective as in-person treatment, as long as it is clinically appropriate.

When is it a good time to use telepsychiatry? I think in the best case scenario, telepsychiatry is a complement to other in-person psychiatry services. When working with patients, it is recommended that the first appointment be in person to help the therapeutic relationship. Other times I like to use telepsychiatry are:

1) college students – helps them to continue care with the same providers while they are travelling back and forth between home and school
2) work travel – helps to maintain consistency despite a job that requires travel
3) caregivers – when there is a sick child at home, or elder care is needed, remote services can be extremely helpful
4) agoraphobia – when getting out of the house is a psychiatric symptom, televideo services can help work with the patient on getting out of the house
5) cognitive impairment – for patients with cognitive impairment or dementia, televideo can be a good tool to treat them where they are living and get feedback from the caregivers in their residence

To learn more, or to schedule an appointment, contact our office today at (919) 636-5240.

Live Mentally Healthy,
Dr. Jennie Byrne

Author
Dr. Jennie Byrne, M.D., PhD.

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