Telepsychiatry is the provision of psychiatric evaluation, and treatment, using audio-visual technology, when travel restrictions prevent patients from coming in for an office visit. It provides convenience, and potentially quicker access to psychiatric care. Anyone with a computer that has a webcam, can use the software of Skype, or FaceTime, if you have an Apple device. Some physicians also communicate with their patients using e-mail, instant messaging, texting, Facebook, and Twitter although this is not my policy.
Telepsychiatry has evolved more quickly in states or regions that are largely rural, where finding a psychiatrist is difficult, and often involves a lengthy wait for an appointment. The reason why telepsychiatry has not moved forward as quickly in New Jersey, as other states, is because it does not have the physician shortage, or the geography of more rural states. More psychiatrists, and their patients are starting to talk about, and consider the use of telepsychiatry, because of the quality of evolving technology, convenience, and secure networks. Proposed telemedicine laws however, have yet to find their way out of legislative committees in New Jersey.
As with any medical intervention, there may be potential problems associated with telepsychiatry. They can include:
- Poor quality picture, and sound may prevent your doctor from conducting a proper assessment.
- Failure of security features of the hardware, and software may result in the failure to keep transmission of treatment session information private.
- Audio-visual information may not be comprehensive enough to allow your doctor to make a thorough enough assessment during a routine or emergency assessment.
All of these issues are being considered by multiple agencies responsible for the provision of mental health care, and these services will continue to actively evolve.