The concept of “telepsychiatry” is briefly defined as the provision of mental health services by a mental health specialist through video conference technology.
Telepsychiatry practices are quite a promising approach for diminishing the gap of treatment and for facilitating the access of particularly isolated patients to expert mental health services. The use of the telepsychiatry approach in mental health services is based on scientifically solid evidences. Telepsychiatry services, which seemingly have sufficient empirical foundations in the event that they are integrated into the classical clinical settings, are capable of becoming the focal point of studies and practices in the future. Innovative approaches aimed at providing mental health services are immediately required in order to increase the access to evidence-based care.
Avoidance of environments of physical contact by individuals is important for preventing the spreading of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which is taking the entire world by storm. Self-quarantine measures are being taken in all countries, ours included, where the pandemic is present, in order to minimize physical contact. Within the scope of these measures, access to healthcare services has also been limited. The elimination of inequalities in having access to health services and care was the underlying reason why telepsychiatry services became the subject matter of the studies before this pandemic started. Having been developed in order to facilitate the access of rural area dwellers or people with limited physical motion to healthcare services, this system is increasingly growing each and every day with the rapid changes occurring in the fields of technology and medicine. With the advancements in these practices, major health institutions are getting rapidly integrated into telepsychiatry services in order to expand their health services.
Although it is not yet possible to say that the telepsychiatry practices, in which technologically up-to-date and proper systems are being used, are as effective as face-to-face therapies, the results obtained from a number of studies set forth the usefulness of telepsychiatry. Studies show that both patients and doctors/practitioners are pleased with these practices. Although practitioners are concerned about any possible negative effects on therapeutic adaptation processes that might be caused by the limitations involved in telepsychiatry, studies report that telepsychiatry is at the levels comparable to face-to-face therapies in terms of the reliability of the treatment results.
A great majority of the studies conducted in the field of telepsychiatry practices summarize the responses given by patients to quantitative self-report questionnaires having descriptive statistics and report that they have been highly pleased with telepsychiatry services. The positive results on having an easy access to health services and adhering to appointments increase the satisfaction of both patients and practitioners. In a telepsychiatry study conducted with individuals who previously received face-to-face therapies, it was concluded that the patients felt comfortable and were satisfied with the practice itself. As a matter of fact, none of the studies provided any strong evidence on telepsychiatry evaluations being less reliable than face-to-face evaluations. In general, mental health interventions made through telepsychiatry and face-to-face therapies yield similar treatment results.
Hubley, S., Lynch, S. B., Schneck, C., Thomas, M., & Shore, J. (2016). Review of key telepsychiatry outcomes. World journal of psychiatry, 6(2), 269–282. https://doi.org/10.5498/wjp.v6.i2.269