You’ve probably heard the words telepsychiatry, telemedicine and telehealth floating around a lot lately. Maybe a few of you have already used these services, or maybe you don’t know much about them. As the healthcare system starts to incorporate more and more technology, it becomes difficult to keep up. So, let's unpack exactly what telepsychiatry is, how it works, and why it could be useful for you.
Telepsychiatry is part of the broader concept of telemedicine. Telemedicine simply means that a healthcare visit you would normally have with a healthcare provider in person, takes place remotely over technology. Typically, we see the use of videoconferencing over a HIPPA approved technology platform. In some cases, it could be consultation over the phone, but here, we’ll focus mostly on videoconferencing. Telepsychiatry (or telepsych) is really just telemedicine that focuses on psychiatry or mental health, specifically.
You set up an appointment time with your provider. You would then use your internet connected device (either smartphone or computer) to meet virtually with your provider at the appointment time. The provider might then start your session by confirming your name and current location, as well as an emergency contact. As we all know, technology isn’t without its glitches. So, in case you get disconnected, your provider will give you a backup phone number where you can continue your session. You can expect your provider to appear just as professional as they would if you were meeting in person. Also worth noting, is that many insurances will cover telemedicine visits under your plan.
During the session, your provider will likely be positioned closely in front of the computer, with the camera at eye level. And typically, you would position your device similarly. There is so much that a provider can understand about you from your expression and body language. That's why having the ability to clearly see you during the session is so important. The confidentiality of your session might be a concern to you. But the provider is required to ensure that the session is private and can't be heard by other individuals in the surrounding area. This is the same practice provider would have in a face-to-face session. And even though you're receiving your treatment through a screen, you can expect the same quality during a telepsych session with your provider as you would have in person.
In some parts of the country mental health services are harder to come by. A video call might be the only way some patients have ever received mental health treatment. However, telepsychiatry isn't just for for those who don't have easy access to in person treatment. It provides a level of flexibility that allows so many people much greater access to treatment. Typically, your provider is required to practice in the same state where the session is held, but that can still allow for improved patient access.
There are some scenarios that would provide a better fit for a telepsych appointment than a traditional appointment. Let's think about a few here. You have 45 minutes during your lunch break, and it is the only time you can squeeze in an appointment. Having a telepsychiatry session is probably much more feasible than taking a trip to the provider’s office. Or, consider your baby is taking a two hour nap, and you can’t get a babysitter in order to go to your mental health appointment. That’s okay - you can do a telepsych session instead. Or, if you happen to find yourself unable to leave your home for weeks at a time, for whatever reason. You still have options!
A note on HIPPA approved technology platforms: The department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently changed their rules about which types of platforms are approved for the use to telemedicine services. However, it's unclear if this regulation will change again in the future.
Providing you with complete mental health care is Talkiatry's focus. This includes a variety of technology based tools to meet your needs. We pride ourselves on being a real, local team of providers and if telepsychiatry is what you need at this time, we're here for you.
Talkiatry is a local, accessible and complete mental healthcare solution that accepts insurance. We close the gap for individuals who want to get better, but feel that mental health care has been challenging to navigate up until this point and want a more convenient way to take the first step. Talkiatry takes the traditional local mental health visit and combines it with technology, scale, efficiency, and design to provide the best possible environment for healing.
Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.