Telehealth for Psychiatry and Mental Healthcare Can Improve Access and Patient Outcomes

Use of telepsychiatry increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in greater access and the potential for improved care, although barriers to wider adoption remain.  As far back as 1878, telehealth has been used to connect clinicians to patients, with great leaps forward occurring in the late twentieth century, as the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration monitored astronauts’ physiological well-being in space using remote medicine.

Many populations can benefit from telehealth, from rural to urban communities. Telehealth has been used throughout medicine, but has proven to be especially applicable to psychiatric and psychological services, in part because of the limited need for in-person physical examination. The field of psychiatry was an early adopter of telehealth, and telepsychiatry began in the USA in 1973 with consultation services from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to other clinical sites (when used for mental health encounters, the term telepsychiatry includes both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy services).