Increasing Access to Mental Care with Telepsychiatry

The United States is facing a severe shortage of psychiatrists, in which 55 percent of counties nationwide currently have no psychiatrists available, according to a new report. This shortage is impacting the country’s health care system, particularly for primary-care doctors, who increasingly have to assume these roles to treat mental or behavioral health conditions.

Taking on mental health care often requires more time and resources to adequately assess and treat such conditions, which can further limit the valuable time doctors have with other patients at the point of care.

Moreover, the delivery of specialized mental healthcare can be out of the realm of expertise or comfort for many primary-care doctors. When it is, it makes sense to refer care to psychiatry providers. Yet, due to the current shortage of psychiatrists, patients may need to wait weeks—sometimes even months—to be seen by a local psychiatry provider in their community.

This is where direct-to-consumer telepsychiatry, also known as in-home telepsychiatry, can help fill the gap for primary-care doctors. Telepsychiatry is a type of telemedicine that uses videoconferencing to provide psychiatric evaluation, consultation and treatment.

Why direct-to-consumer telepsychiatry?

Telepsychiatry offers several benefits, and meets the standard of traditional in-person care. Telepsychiatry can meet patients where they are, whether at home or in a private office, eliminating time spent traveling to appointments or in waiting rooms. It also allows more flexibility with scheduling, as direct-to-consumer telepsychiatry providers usually work from home themselves and can offer appointments during non-traditional hours, including evenings and weekends.

By eliminating long wait times associated with community-based psychiatry options, direct-to-consumer telepsychiatry enables greater accessibility to psychiatry providers and supports continuity of care. It expands the reach outside the local community, so patients have access to high quality care and a variety of specialized providers. As long as a telepsychiatry provider is licensed in the state where a patient is physically located, they can deliver care. This also opens the door for patients to continue seeing their same psychiatry provider throughout many life transitions; including job changes, college, and vacations.

Just like with in-person treatment, patients meet with the same telepsychiatry provider over time, allowing the patient and his…

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