Welcome to today’s special edition Knowledge Knugget during Mental Health Awareness Month. During this week’s segment, Carrie Chitsey answers the questions, what is telepsychiatry and why is there a rising demand pre and post COVID. 

What is Telepsychiatry? 

Telepsychiatry is normally referred to when talking about the psychiatric assessment and/or evaluation of a patient via telehealth. This can be in the form of a psychiatrist to the patient, regardless of the location.

It can also be referred to the psychiatry consultation in regards to medication management, either prescribing medication or ongoing the continuum of care.

You may have also heard it being referred to as provider to provider. We are seeing more and more where you have a facility, primary care physician, or an ER doctor that is doing consultations with psychiatry or a telepsych consult.


Where is The Need for Telepsychiatry? 

With the shortage of rural access to mental health, there’s been an increase in the need for telepsychiatry in: 

As we look at the demands and the increase of telepsychiatry a lot is going on within admission forms. Such as doing psychiatric care assessments and/or evaluations before the admissions and doing that remotely.

For both rural and urban demographics there is a big shortage in psychiatry when we look at senior care, as well as schools trying to reduce ER admissions. 


Using Telepsych For Senior Care 

There are new regulations that have come out, that have been put on pause because of COVID-19. This will allow somebody going to an SNF on Medicare and Medicaid from a rehab facility to get the initial telepsych evaluation from a mental health specialist upon admission. Since SNF’s are not staffed for that and don’t have the resources, this will be an increasing need. 

We are also seeing the same thing for chronic care conditions, whether it’s a renal patient, oncology – they are going to need these psych visits as well. So with an increasing senior population where you have a majority aging at home, or in home facilities, psychiatrists are going to need to be able to go wherever the patient is. And this can be done through telehealth. 


Youth Mental Health 

As we look at youth, child protective services, and the foster care system, there is a growing need for telepsychiatry. With this vulnerable population, psych evaluations need to be done in a very timely fashion, 24 to 48 hours. The problem that arises is that it is very hard to transport youth and get to them, they need to be with a case manager or social worker. So to be able to do that remotely for mental health needs during COVID, this has increased dramatically. 


What Are The Benefits of Telepsychiatry? 


Improve Access to Care

For rural areas where time is a sensitivity and there’s a shortage, it will allow mental health care to be done remotely. This could be psych evaluations, assessments, and/or appointments . This will also give the psychiatrist a broader reach. By cutting down driving time. 

This also improves access to care for seniors in SNFs where it is hard to get caregivers involved and also hard to transport. The ability to provide behavioral health care during these appointments without logistical headaches is important. 


Reduce Admissions to ER 

It is critical to have instant access to care to reduce the need for ER admissions. With the shortages right now in the US, being able to get HIPAA compliant evaluations done instantaneously through telepsychiatry will truly play a role in accomplishing that. 


Ongoing Continuum of Care 

When talking about medication management, ongoing care, and moving away from site evaluations to therapy and medication, telepsych can play a huge role in a patient’s treatment plan. By being part of that continuum of care, this can reduce no show rates, readmission, and relapse rates. 

That’s today’s healthcare Knowledge Knugget, part of The Executive Innovation Show. Feel free to submit questions or be featured on the Knowledge Knugget. Subscribe to our YouTube, Vimeo, and the podcast channels to get your Knowledge Knugget on Thursdays.

Download our latest mental health white paper “Telemental Health & The Impact on the Future of Behavioral Health” and listen to the healthcare podcasts where we talk about all the use cases for telehealth.