During the COVID-19 pandemic, Aware Behavioral Health became a 100% telepsychiatry service. Once the pandemic restrictions eased and some of the dangers went away, we began seeing patients again in Dallas, but most of our patients still utilize our Telehealth services.
On occasion, especially during those early days, we would be asked by prospective patients whether or not Telehealth really worked and why we were not planning on scheduling in-person consultations. But what we’ve found – and what has been confirmed by the research – is that not only does telepsychiatry work, it is often easier for the patients as well.
What is Telepsychiatry?
Let’s start with an introduction. Telepsychiatry is psychiatry that takes place entirely through technology. Most of the time we use a secure video conferencing service so that we can still “meet face to face,” although in theory telepsychiatry can also be completed via the phone, or even through text messaging.
Telepsychiatry also utilizes other digital technology to make the process for evaluating and managing mental health easier. For example, we may use secure messaging platforms, remote patient monitoring tools, electronic health records, and other tech that makes it easier for us to address your mental health.
Thanks to video technology, telepsychiatry is very similar to meeting in person for most patients. There are a few differences, which we’ll discuss later, but in general the only difference between them is the lack of commute.
What Are the Benefits of Telepsychiatry?
When telepsychiatry is appropriate for the patient, there are many benefits. The primary benefit is easier access. With no commute and little to no geographic limitations, patients can interact with a psychiatrist essentially instantly and from anywhere. While we still schedule you in, you do not have to block off a significant part of your day in order to travel to the office or travel home, and you can see a psychiatrist in Dallas even if you live somewhere much further, like Houston or, theoretically, anywhere else in the world.
In addition, in the field of mental health, we’re always looking for ways to reduce barriers and make it easier to keep with your appointments. Telepsychiatry reduces cancellations and makes scheduling easier, both of which help improve our patient’s ability to keep up with their medications and therapy appointments. It is also less costly, since there is no commute.
Finally, telepsychiatry makes it possible for those in underserved areas – or those that require anonymity, like high profile clients or those that need support for sensitive issues – to get help in the privacy of their own home, without having to find a therapist nearby to visit.
How Effective is Telepsychiatry?
The technology itself is fairly new, and so research hasn’t shown whether or not it is *more* effective than traditional in person psychiatry. What we can say with confidence, based on early research, is that when a patient is a good candidate for this form of care, then they are likely to receive care that is at minimum equally as good as in-person psychiatry.
When is Telepsychiatry Appropriate or Not Appropriate?
Telepsychiatry is considered appropriate for the vast majority of mental health conditions. With video conferencing, there is minimal functional difference, as we can easily ask you questions, listen to your answers, see your expressions, and more – just like if you were here in person.
It is considered appropriate for depression, anxiety, ADHD, trauma recovery, addiction recovery, and many other mental health issues. There are only a few situations currently where Telepsychiatry is considered potentially inappropriate:
- When a patient wants an in-person treatment. The most important thing is for you to get the help you need, so if you prefer in-person then that is what you should have access to.
- When a patient is in the middle of a psychiatric emergency. One of the few benefits of in-person therapy is that a patient cannot easily walk away or hang up when they are in the middle of crisis.
- When a patient has limited internet access. There are ways that telepsychiatry improves equity, and ways it does not. Since it does require high speed internet, this is one way that telepsychiatry may be inequitable.
There may also be specific conditions or concerns where it makes more sense to speak in the office. For example, if the patient needs a detailed physical examination, that is typically much easier to do in-person. We will discuss these at the time of the call, and of course, telepsychiatry may be used for follow up visits.
Overall, Telepsychiatry Works
Aware Behavioral Health’s telepsychiatry practice sees more patients than our in-person options do, and we can easily schedule you in for an assessment and the care you need. Please contact Aware Behavioral Health today to get started with your treatment, from a Dallas psychiatrist that cares about you.