Telepsychiatry for Substance Abuse & Addiction

In rural areas, many that suffer from substance abuse and addiction disorders do not have access to the help and care they need. Telepsychiatry brings help to these individuals.

With the many applications that telepsychiatry can adapt to, substance abuse and addiction care and telepsychiatry has the potential for a great pairing. In the past decade, programs for the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse have declined. Consequently, these programs have suffered in quantity and quality, especially among community-based treatment programs. Through the use of online video sessions, the quality of care in telepsychiatry is not compromised.

People that live in under-served areas need access to medical providers. Telepsychiatry gives these individuals the opportunity to receive the help they need. In the treatment of substance abuse – a specialized area of care where there is a specific need for follow-up, support, and communication – telepsychiatry is emerging as an extremely useful tool.
In-patient treatment may require the mental health provider to assess the mental and physical health of the patient during the admission process, followed by the monitoring of him/her throughout their stay. The use of telepsychiatry is an opportunity for the doctor to experience the patient’s behavior in real time, giving him/her the same information as a face-to-face meeting without having to be at a facility. As telepsychiatry grows in usage, there are more and more providers and patients that are realizing that there is no difference in the quality of care between telepsychiatry sessions versus in-person meetings.
In a 2013 report on telemedicine’s impact on healthcare cost and quality, The American Telemedicine Association wrote that patient satisfaction with telepsychiatry has been consistently high, especially when the doctor is trained in the area they have been treated for. They felt the care was personalized, that the psychiatrist had the patient’s interest in mind, and the communication between them and the doctor was close and comfortable.

Benefits of Telepsychiatry for the Mental Health Provider

  • Real-time access to newly admitted acute drug or alcohol patient episodes
  • On-going treatment for patients living in rural areas without proper access to facilities
  • Save on travel time, allowing him/her to see more patients
  • Save on costs incurred traveling to offices, e.g. gas, wear-and-tear, etc.
  • Videoconferencing with other professionals regarding case management
  • Increased rate of success for patients due to the ease of attending treatment sessions
  • High satisfaction among patients

Benefits of Telepsychiatry for the Mental Health Patient

  • Treatment is easy to obtain when there is inadequate care for substance abuse close to home
  • Reduced travel time and associated costs
  • Reduced time taken from work or school
  • Increased likelihood of completing the entire program
  • Insurance referrals and reimbursements are improving.
Access to Substance Abuse Services in Rural Areas, by Fortney and Booth, 2001, documents that the lack of access to care significantly influences whether an individual with alcoholism or substance abuse disorder seeks treatment and continues it to completion. Critical to the success of a program is for the individual to attend all phases of treatment. If the patient’s attendance is sporadic, they are less likely to succeed. This issue becomes a concern of those involved in the patient’s treatment, whether it’s non-profit or government-funded. Telepsychiatry is a cost-effective, evaluative, and consulting option for substance abuse programs, clinics, detox centers, and outpatient services. Such locations can make arrangements for the patient to connect with the psychiatrist from their business office or from home.