Telepsychiatry Continues to Gain Proponents
> 8/23/2006 10:26:06 AM

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, developmental disorders, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress, and schizophrenia are among the disorders being treated via telemedicine.

“The bottom line is that telepsychiatry is reliable and valid. There is no question that telepsychiatry can be used for these diagnoses,” said Dr. Hilty.

At this year's meeting of the New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit doctors, researchers, administrators and executives from around the country met to discuss advances in pscyhopharmacology, treatment and methodologies for mental health in both clinical and research settings. Co-sponsored by the National Institute on Mental Health and American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology, the annual meeting's goal is to bring together minds from all areas of the field to encourage interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration as well as make new advancements more well known.

As reported by Clinical Psychiatry News in their August edition, UC Davis' Dr. Donald Hilty made a well received presentation about the increasing viability of telepsychiatry to expand the reach of therapists into rural areas, a program he has been involved with through UC Davis and the NIMH (the information on his workshop appears on pg. 15 of the meeting's abstracts). Dr. Hilty has worked with and studied telemedicine and has worked as a consultant to others interested in moving toward this new approach.

We have discussed telepsychiatry here before, and Dr. Hilty hit on many of the same points in his presentation. Dr. Hilty pointed out that until recently technology has been a barrier, whereas now it has become an enabler. High speed connections have eliminated troublesome delays, and as cameras become more ubiquitous, the last hurdle should be firmly in the rearview.

Reduced time to travel for a consultation, reduced waiting time, and less time away from work are among advantages cited by patients. One benefit for psychiatrists is that sessions are recorded electronically, thus obviating the need for written chart documentation, Dr. Hilty said. Telepsychiatry consultations also can reduce nursing home admissions, use of emergency services, and misdiagnosis by primary care provider.

Dr. Hilty was sure to note that most of those trying to do telepsychiatry do not have their eyes set on replacing face to face patient contact, but that in many cases, rural areas being the best example, cost and time can be limiting factors. Very soon, telepsychiatry will completely eliminate those factors.

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