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New Advances in Telepsychiatry

Jed Magen, D.O., M.S. and John Piette, Ph.D.

Telepsychiatry is still a developing field in the state of Michigan. By definition, telepsychiatry is “the use of electronic communication and information technologies to provide or support clinical psychiatric care at a distance.” Within psychiatry, an uneven geographic distribution of psychiatrists is helping drive demand for telemedicine to improve service delivery. In places where clinical psychiatric services are inadequate, such as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, telepsychiatry can work to both lower overhead costs and increase revenue. Various criteria need to be met for these types of over-the-phone sessions to be successful, such as staff interest and funding for technology. First, new equipment, including telecom and desktop, is needed for the telepsychiatry service. Generally, the equipment is affordable in a hospital or clinic setting. Second, connectivity is an important factor. Internet protocol, stability, internet speed, and bandwidth issues are some of the predictable obstacles in applying telepsychiatry. Third, faculty and clinicians may not have time for this new service, or may not be willing to try it out because of the perceptions of quality and uncertainty about its effectiveness. Recent studies have shown that telepsychiatry can help in significantly improving systolic blood pressure and decreasing cardiovascular risk in people with severe symptoms of diabetes and depression. Current research offers support for the effectiveness and feasibility of using telepsychiatry internationally, although work remains to be done to establish, maintain, and expand its use within the U.S. first. Cloud Computing and Telehealth programs may allow telepsychiatry to be expanded to rural and impoverished areas around the world.

 

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