Telepsychiatry is the delivery of psychiatric assessment and treatment through telecommunications technology, usually videoconferencing. Telepsychiatry services are becoming more common in hospitals and clinics across the U.S.

What are some advantages of telepsychiatry?

  • Psychiatric services can be provided to areas where there is a lack of psychiatrists.
  • Many people are already comfortable using videoconferencing, due to programs such as FaceTime, Skype and Google Chat.
  • It provides an opportunity to have continued treatment and therapy if a patient is on vacation or a long business trip.
  • Some people who have difficulty traveling or have certain psychiatric disorders, such as agoraphobia, can benefit from telepsychiatry services from home.

How is it different than face-to-face psychiatric assessments and therapy?

  • Telepsychiatry services should be provided through specific videoconferencing programs that are compliant with HIPAA and have high levels of encryption.  This means that some chat programs, such as FaceTime and Skype, may not meet the requirements to perform telepsychiatry.
  • There are regulations on how telepsychiatry should be performed, which can vary by state.  Some controlled substances, such as benzodiazepines, may not be allowed to be prescribed using telepsychiatry.
  • Physical examinations may not be possible with telepsychiatry.  If the telepsychiatry services are provided through a hospital or clinic, a different health care provider may perform the physical examination and report the findings to the psychiatrist.  Some psychiatric medications, such as typical antipsychotics, require physical examinations to determine if movement problems are developing.