Does Telepsychiatry Offer the Same Quality of Care as In-Person Care?
When a mental health care facility is first considering the implementation of a telepsychiatry program, a common concern is whether or not patients will experience the same quality of care.
Previous research has shown that not only is telepsychiatry effective, but it can also in some cases, be more comfortable for the patient in communicating with the clinician. Additionally, new findings by the Taskforce on Telehealth Policy during COVID-19 support that telehealth is equivalent to in-person care and can even have some advantages over in-person care. At innovaTel we have always believed that telehealth and more specifically, telepsychiatry, holds an important place in the healthcare system and is the natural evolution of healthcare in the digital age we live in.
A Modality of Care, Not a "Type" of Care
Before looking at the quality of care provided through telehealth, an important perspective to understand is that services provided via telehealth are the same as services provided in-person.
Telehealth is essentially a “setting” or modality of care, rather than a type of care. Therefore, telehealth should be held to the same standards and quality measures as in-person care.
However there are some cases in which the unique characteristics of telehealth require different quality measures, but these measures should be adapted from existing in-person measures rather than creating a whole new set of standards specific to the telehealth setting.
Common Misconceptions About Telehealth
A common apprehension that some patients and providers have about using telehealth or telepsychiatry is whether or not there will be a different standard of care for patients treated remotely than for patients seen in-person. Telehealth providers are held to the same practice standards as in-person providers along with having to adhere to additional guidelines specific to telehealth, which in the past have created difficult barriers to surpass for this modality of care. With the push for telehealth services in the COVID era we have luckily seen some of these barriers removed in order to quickly adapt to the current climate, resulting in widespread use of the modality, even with providers that may have been hesitant to try it in the past.
Another misconception about telehealth is that it is a temporary solution. This assumption is based on the idea that there is no continuity of care with telepsychiatry. However, after partnering with community mental health centers and building a network of clinicians from all over the country, innovaTel has found telepsychiatry to be a long-term solution with some providers working with the same organization for as long as five years.
A group of 22 leading health care voices came together to establish the Taskforce on Telehealth Policy as a result of an unprecedented increase in the use of remote medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic to develop a consensus of recommendations for policy makers to drive quality and safety standards for the delivery of telehealth.
Early findings from the “COVID-era” suggest that telehealth may reduce missed appointment (no-show) rates in comparison with in-person visits. Furthermore, telehealth may have a positive impact on supporting family members or caregivers, due to the critical role they play in patients’ health. Telehealth as a modality is more convenient, allowing caregivers to have a better visibility regarding the health of the person they care for. The taskforce encourages stewards and policymakers to quantify these potential benefits in order to further improve the patient and caregivers’ experiences by integrating health and social supports to better understand patients’ goals and preferences.
If your organization is interested in establishing a telepsychiatry program with a telepsychiatry provider dedicated to providing long-term clinical solutions, contact one of our telepsychiatry experts today to schedule an online meeting.