Home General Is Telepsychiatry Equivalent to In-Person, Face-to-Face Appointments?

Is Telepsychiatry Equivalent to In-Person, Face-to-Face Appointments?

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Psychiatric care that is given to patients in a one-on-one setting in physical environments and online are both considered in-person appointments. For an interview to be in-person, both people must have the other person in their sight. They need to be able to see each other and hear each other. By this definition, telepsychiatry and traditional psychiatry should be equivalent. 

However, some individuals claim that technology disrupts psychiatric care and that it’s necessary for people to be physically located in the same room to have effective face-to-face meetings. On the other hand, many studies show that telepsychiatry is equally effective as in-person meetings. 

Telepsychiatry explained 

Telepsychiatry is a new method in the psychiatry field, providing innovation through advanced technology. This method consists of psychiatrists working with their patients through videoconferencing. 

In many countries around the world, even in developed countries, a lot of people don’t have access to nearby psychiatric help. However, many improvements in videoconferencing technology are now available for psychiatric professionals to use and help their patients remotely. Telepsychiatry has endless potential in providing more effective, affordable, and patient-centred psychiatric care. 

Acceptance of Telepsychiatry 

Approximately 82% of patients who have tried telepsychiatry say that they would recommend this approach to other people as well. About 85% of patients prefer telepsychiatry for follow-up appointments. In several small randomised studies, telepsychiatry proves to be as effective as in-person care for the diagnosis and treatment of several conditions.

One of the main reasons for this is the experience of the patient. In most cases, telepsychiatry doesn’t appear any different than traditional psychiatric sessions. When going to appointments, patients usually visit their local health care providers in a mental health clinic or similar institution. Patients are then led to a private room where they can privately discuss their issues to remote professionals via videoconferencing. 

The topics depend on the type of appointment, and there are no significant differences to in-person sessions. Doctors can prescribe medicine, discuss specific issues, and suggest a treatment just like they would regularly. Additionally, all of the follow-up appointments are conducted in the same manner. 

Telepsychiatry regulations

Many US states have added various strict regulations to ensure that the quality of patient care is up to a set standard. For a psychiatrist to operate remotely, it’s not only necessary that they are licensed medical practitioners, but they also need to get additional licenses as well. A telepsychiatrist must be licensed in the state they reside in and the state in which they are providing their services. 

All telepsychiatry practitioners need to check with their state boards for all the licenses they may need. Additionally, the telemedicine company they work for also needs to have appropriate permissions.

Telepsychiatry is categorised as telemedicine meaning all practitioners need to comply with various telemedicine laws and regulations. Telepsychiatric practices need to comply with the same standards as in-person psychiatry. States and official institutions also regulate this.

Medicine prescription via telepsychiatry 

Even though psychiatrists can prescribe therapy and medicines via telepsychiatry sessions, it’s not that simple. Authorities and various medical institutions have recognised that, by allowing this service, there is significant room for abuse. People posing as patients may be able to manipulate psychiatrists into prescribing them medications that they want to acquire but don’t necessarily need. 

This threat is why there is a strict requirement for psychiatrists when they are prescribing controlled substances. When prescribing controlled substances, a health care provider must meet a strict set of federal and state requirements. 

This is a somewhat controversial topic as some people believe controlled substances should only be prescribed in person. The American Telehealth Association is currently working towards loosening these tight restrictions. 

Many people have had concerns with this part of telepsychiatry, but this is also heavily regulated, controlled, and tracked. This means that all doctors are accountable for the drugs they give out to their patients. 

A 2007 study has also concluded that there are no significant differences in results between traditional psychiatry and telepsychiatry. All of these factors indicate that telepsychiatry is equivalent to in-person sessions. At the same time, as technology keeps improving, we can only expect it to become better in the future. For more information on how a telepsychiatric partner like innovaTel can aid your health care facility, reach out today.

*** Image credit: Freepik

Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of  Edinburgh.

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