Telepsychiatry has evened the playing field for people in need of mental health help by providing psychiatric services, most often through video conferencing. This allows patients, no matter their location, to receive high-quality psychiatric care. The great thing about telepsych is that conducting an appointment virtually does not impact the quality of care received. There are very few differences between getting psychiatric care virtually and psychiatric care on-site.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S.’s ongoing shortage of psychiatrists, offering telepsychiatry services just isn’t going to be optional anymore. It’s now necessary that organizations and providers be able to treat patients virtually when on-site care isn’t possible.
Fortunately, the nationwide shift to telemedicine early in the pandemic has proven that there’s little to no difference between the quality of virtual psychiatric care and on-site psychiatric care. Telepsychiatry has made psychiatric services more accessible, affordable, and convenient than ever — for patients, providers, and healthcare organizations alike.
For organizations still debating whether to invest in virtual psychiatric care vs. on-site psychiatric care for their long-term care strategies, this piece will address four common questions you may have:
1. Is the length of treatment different for a virtual appointment?
There’s a huge misconception that there’s a difference in the level of care between a virtual psychiatric appointment and an on-site appointment. The truth is, a virtual appointment runs much the same way an on-site appointment does. There’s no difference in the length of treatment, the type of care, or how the provider conducts the appointment.
Just like in an on-site appointment, the patient will be connected directly with their provider (either in a healthcare organization or in their own home) for a private, confidential session. The provider will then conduct an in-depth evaluation and work with the patient towards a diagnosis and treatment plan that is specific to their needs. If patients require medication, a virtual psychiatrist can prescribe that as well — often through your organization’s existing system. Additionally, follow-up care will be set up as needed.
However, while the approach to care can be similar, the biggest advantage of using a telepsychiatry provider is expanding access to quality psychiatric treatment for people in rural and underserved areas.
2. Can a patient’s mental health condition impact the level of care they receive?
In almost all cases, patients can receive care virtually just as they would be on-site. However, sometimes the decision comes down to personal preference and availability. In some rare cases, a virtual appointment would not be ideal for patients who are in mechanical restraints, not willing to consent to receive mental health treatment virtually, or not able to conduct an appointment in a safe, private environment wherever they are located. In these scenarios, on-site treatment (if possible) is recommended.
Other than these few exceptions, a patient’s particular mental health condition does not impact their ability to receive adequate care virtually. At Iris Telehealth, we work with providers to ensure patients are safe, comfortable, and experience the highest level of care possible.
3. Do virtual and on-site psychiatric appointments have the same level of effectiveness for children and adults?
There is no major difference in patient outcomes or patient satisfaction for virtual care vs. on-site care. In a study published by The American Journal of Managed Care, 62.6% of patients and 59% of clinicians cited they did not see a difference in quality in a virtual visit compared to an on-site visit with most patients preferring virtual psychiatric visits. With the onset of the pandemic, adults and children have both been struggling to maintain their mental health while being isolated and dealing with day-to-day life. When an on-site appointment is not feasible, children and adults can seek psychiatric help virtually to get their mental health back on track.
4. What are the top concerns providers have with virtual appointments vs. on-site appointments?
Some providers have to overcome patient concerns around telepsychiatry because they’re worried about being recorded during their sessions. During the session, the provider will never record patients without telling them, and they must ensure they receive patient consent before conducting any appointments. Just like at an on-site appointment, providers will review everything patients need to know before the appointment and ensure they understand how everything will flow.
Providers also have to work through using technology to speak with their patients who may not be tech-savvy. When providers partner with Iris Telehealth or another telehealth vendor, they will be properly trained, educated, and given adequate support to address patient concerns and work through any technology fears patients may have.
Another concern providers have is whether they will have the same connection with their patients virtually as they would on-site. Most providers and patients find this answer to be a resounding yes! According to a study performed by APA, 82 percent of people tried virtual care due to the pandemic, and about half had a positive response to it. Fifty-nine percent say they would use it for a mental health concern in the future — and most patients who take advantage of virtual care report positive experiences and satisfaction.
How Iris Telehealth can help
Whether your organization chooses to implement virtual psychiatric care or on-site care, you can rest assured patients will receive the same level of care and treatment with both options. One is not inherently better than the other. However, telehealth makes mental health help available to more people across the U.S. and breaks down barriers to receiving help.