With an increase in patient demand for psychiatric treatment and a decreased supply of psychiatrists, medical officials and experts are looking to telepsychiatry as a pragmatic and potentially necessary tool to help resolve the disparity. The American Psychiatric Association estimates a shortage of around 2,900 geriatric psychiatrists and 22,000 child psychiatrists by 2015. Further compounding this issue, data released by The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s suggests that in the 25-year period between 1995 to 2020, patient demand for general psychiatry will have risen nineteen percent across the country. In this same time frame, officials are expecting a 100 percent rise in child and adolescent psychiatry demand and a 33 percent rise in the under-20 demographic between 2010 and 2050.

A report appearing in Psychiatric Times online journal says, “rural health disparities include physician shortages and higher suicide rates, more poverty, and more methamphetamine use with subsequent hospital admissions. The mental health needs and shortage of physicians make a compelling case for telepsychiatry.” The article not only outlines the benefits that telepsychiatry may have in rural regions, but also describes case-by-case scenarios in which telemedicine can be successfully implemented and utilized.

One case in particular portrays Evan, age 10, who is referred to a telepsychiatry clinic to evaluate attentiveness, anxiousness, and negative medication side-effects. He was prescribed dexmethylphenidate for ADHD after being diagnosed at age 8. After unsatisfactory side-effects, he was switched to amphetamine mixed salts which also lead to suicidal thoughts. Evan was then referred to the telepsychiatrist who prescribed therapy and methylphenidate, which worked well for his symptoms and had no detrimental effects. What is interesting in Evan’s case is his fascination with the technology. The report reads, “[he] was intrigued by the video setup and excited to be on camera. He interacted easily with the telepsychiatrist through the video connection and seemed unaffected by the presenter in the room.” Not only does telemedicine benefit Evan’s access to diagnosis and treatment but also creates an experience that he seemingly enjoys partaking in.

With an effective patient experience and cost benefits due to the usage of new technology, telemedicine benefits reach far and wide throughout the healthcare field. “The decreased costs of technology and data transmission have significantly advanced telepsychiatry. The access potential for telepsychiatry is clear,” says the report written by Joan Daughton, MD and Carl B. Greiner, MD. “Training more dedicated practitioners and better insurance reimbursement for telepsychiatry services will broaden its availability and benefit patients. Telepsychiatry training in residency and during fellowships is an important step toward the increased number of trained practitioners.”

The growing shortage of psychiatrists can essentially be solved by teaching, implementing, and utilizing telemedicine within the psychiatric field. Not only will psychiatrists be able to expand their reach to rural patients in need, but they will also be able to provide for the growing demand of patients that would otherwise not receive treatment due to the increasing scarcity of psychiatrists in our nation.

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