Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Teletherapy could ease shortage of psychiatrists in rural America

Mental health advocates hope that teletherapy can ease some of the burden on psychiatrists, especially in rural areas, which often lack such professionals. A shortage of child psychiatrists is of particular concern.

"Psychiatrists and mental health advocates say America today needs more than 30,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists, and has only 8,300—and the need appears to keep rising," Emma Ockerman reports for Time magazine. Advocates have been struggling for an answer to the complicated problem for years. Teletherapy, a therapy session conducted remotely via digital technology, is one piece of that puzzle.

"As technology has become cheaper and more reliable, telepsychiatry has emerged as a practical approach to reaching more young people," Ockerman notes. "But it’s not without its detractors. Some advocates disagree on whether appointments . . . are as effective as those carried out in-person. Others see telehealth as just one promising piece of what must be a larger, more comprehensive solution."

The American Telemedicine Association reported earlier this year that the number of states requiring private insurers to cover telemedicine as they would in-person services had doubled in the past four years, Ockerman adds. Kentucky, for example, requires that "telemental health encounters" be covered through Medicaid and private insurance, including appointments with a licensed social worker. Ockerman's story uses a Kentucky teenager as an example; to read it, click here; for a shorter version from Kentucky Health News, go here.

No comments: