OCTOBER 26TH, 2015

“Some states are promoting wider use of long-distance telepsychiatry to fill the gaps in care.”  The Blade

44975778_sThe shortage of child psychiatrists in the United States today is no surprise to me. Many of us who are practicing saw it coming. What we didn’t see coming was the rapid rise in the use of long-distance telepsychiatry where patients see their doctor through videoconferencing.

Long before there was a national shortage of psychiatrists, there was a dire shortage of psychiatrists in rural areas of the country. This shortage prompted practitioners to find new ways of reaching and treating patients in these remote areas. These were patients of all ages who were dealing with everything from mild depression, substance abuse and learning disabilities to those in the midst of a psychotic episode. Up to this point, for many of these people access to proper treatment was the barrier to recovery.

So what is telepsychiatry? It is part of a growing national trend called telemedicine, in which physicians can see patients from remote locations using secure videoconferencing. Using this system, a psychiatrist or other professional can talk to and physically view the patient through a video screen with a web camera and microphone. On the other end, the patient can view the psychiatrist through a similar audio-visual system.

States like South Carolina, Texas, Colorado and North Carolina have led the way in telepsychiatry. In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory supports the use of telepsychiatry and the legislature there appropriated $2 million in 2013-14 and $2 million for 2014-15 for the program. That shows real commitment by the elected officials to the success of the program.

Telepsychiatry is new territory for medical and legal professionals, as well as for insurers. There are many issues that still have to be worked out. The most urgent seems to be HIPAA and health insurance coverage including Medicaid and Medicare.

In the end, telepsychiatry certainly creates its challenges for the medical community but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Shrinking profession: Serious shortage of psychiatrists facing much of U.S.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

originally available here