Exploring the Use of Telepsychiatry with Forensic Services

Forensic psychiatry is the cooperation between the medical and legal fields, applying the clinical knowledge and skill of a psychiatrist to assist the courts in assessing the mental health of a convict or suspect. With the growing success of telepsychiatry, the use of online video sessions is becoming more popular in legal cases to connect professionals without having to travel.
Taking advantage of telepsychiatry solutions, contributions have been made in such areas as civil and criminal court cases, legal concerns of prisons, and for regulatory and legislative assistance. Similar to its application in rural areas where the lack of psychiatrists often prevent people from receiving necessary treatment, a forensic telepsychiatrist brings his/her skills to remote communities and allows individuals and/or professionals from remote areas to share information with the courts.
Forensic telepsychiatry and telemedicine services are offered by public and private businesses, government-funded and private universities. Telepsychiatrists may be asked by a court or other legal professional to evaluate a person’s mental health in areas of legal concern, including:
  • Independent psychiatric evaluations
  • Psychiatric consults for civil litigation
  • Competency to stand trial evaluations
  • Criminal insanity evaluations
  • Criminal mitigation evaluations
  • Assessment of dangerousness
  • Fitness for duty evaluations
  • Testamentary capacity evaluations
The telepsychiatric assessment is an ideal way to obtain the services of a highly qualified doctor from afar. The doctor’s testimony, if needed, may also be done via an online video session either prior to or during a live court proceeding.
Concerns about protecting the identity of patients and of people who participate in the legal process are shared by both the medical and justice communities. Telepsychiatry is a part of a secure telemedicine platform, such as CloudVisit Telemedicine, which offers HIPAA-compliant, online video sessions.
Healthcare professionals with specific training in sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE) use telemedicine platforms to communicate remotely with other medical professionals who may be located at distant urban hospitals or university teaching hospitals. With the increase in forensic telepsychiatry solutions, programs involving Sexual Abuse Response Teams (SART), are being established across the country in hospitals, clinics, and government-initiated Sexual Assault Forensic Medical Examination Telemedicine Centers.
Forensic Telepsychiatrists provide real-time assistance and instruction to the medical professionals dealing with the victim through live, online video sessions. This cooperation emphasizes the accurate collection of evidence, sensitivity to the victim, and attention to medical needs. Studies show that, as a result of using forensic telepsychiatry solutions at remote medical facilities, there has been an increase in prosecutable cases and higher conviction rates in sexual abuse and assault crimes, and consistent improvements in the method of forensic examinations and legally defined evidence collection.
The benefits of secure online video sessions are abundant in forensic telepsychiatry. Its use makes a difference when identifying and bring an offender to justice without sacrificing quality in evaluating and assessing mental health.

Telepsychiatry benefits to the justice system

  • Improvement in collection of evidence
  • Increase in charges against perpetrators
  • Increased prosecution rates

Telepsychiatry benefits  to forensic psychiatrist

  • Improved access to trained medical professionals
  • Overcome shortages in psychiatrists in remote and underserved populations
  • Reduction in travel time and associated costs
  • Increased patient safety and attention to medical care
  • Improved training for SAFE personnel
  • Increased reporting of sexual assault