When telemedicine was introduced, psychiatry became one of the medical fields to quickly adapt. Now, as telepsychiatry is more widely used, it is becoming more apparent that correctional institutions are ideal environments for taking advantage of the benefits of telepsychiatry. As far back as 2006, Judith Stanley, Director of Accreditation for the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, “This field is just going to keep growing. There is such a need.”
There are many areas within the correctional system where telepsychiatry is being used.
- Assessing suicide risk and prevention planning
- Evaluating potential for psychiatric crisis
- Psychiatric assessments
- Managing medication
- Substance abuse programs
- Evaluating inmates prior to discharge to parole
Mental health services are unable to keep up with the number of new facilities and increasing inmate population. Studies indicate that one-quarter of juvenile offenders have a need for telepsychiatric care; and one-half of the adult population are diagnosed with varying levels of mental health disorders.
Federal, state, and local regulations require prison administrators to make psychiatric and medical services available to inmates and have sanctioned the use of HIPAA-compliant, secure telemedicine and telepsychiatric solutions toward this goal.
The factors which hinder the implementation of telemedicine and telepsychiatry platforms are the same ones that have been found to benefit them as more and more studies are conducted. The questions most often posed by prison administrators prior to accepting telemedicine solutions are:
- How will it affect the general security of the correctional facility, i.e. staff and inmate safety?
- What are the costs of purchasing technology equipment?
- What are the savings over traditional office visits?
- Will telepsychiatry provide inmates with the same quality of care as a face-to-face visit?
Because inmates are no longer removed from the facility to visit the psychiatrist’s office, the security of the prison, its staff, and the general public is better controlled. The psychiatrist’s safety and security is enhanced, as well. Treating inmates in their office has been a concern for doctors because of the safety risks to themselves, their staff, and other patients who may be present. With the availability of online video sessions, those concerns are eased.
With CloudVisit Telemedicine, there is minimal equipment needed, keeping the start-up costs low. Once the telepsychiatry and telemedicine platforms are running and online video sessions increase, the cost-effectiveness becomes more obvious. Some areas where telemedicine solutions influence cost savings are:
- Reduction of inmate transportation costs
- Better medication management by providing patients with diagnosis-appropriate prescription drugs eliminating unnecessary drugs, and controlling their distribution
- In emergency situations, care can be accessed quicker through online video sessions rather than unnecessary hospital visits.
Innovative uses of technology require extensive study before they are fully accepted. Telemedicine and telepsychiatry continue to be deemed appropriate for environments never previously considered. One way of determining the appropriateness and success of telepsychiatry in correctional facilities is by looking at the many benefits they offer.
Benefits of correctional facility telepsychiatry to doctor:
- Real-time interaction with the patient without being in the same room
- No difference between an in-person visit and an on-line video session
- Time is no longer wasted if doctor previously traveled to the prison for treatment sessions
- Patients sessions occur more often due to ease of connecting
- Secure, HIPAA-compliant telepsychiatry sessions address the need for confidentiality Patients more readily follow treatment procedures, improving the likelihood of improvement or recovery.
Benefits of correctional facility telepsychiatry to patient:
- Relations between inmates and correctional services greatly improved
- Inmates satisfied that their healthcare needs are being met more efficiently
- Remoteness of telepsychiatry helps inmates who are uncomfortable with intimate, face-to-face visits
- A sense of freedom, confidence, and understanding of their psychiatric illness
- Comfort of being in their own environment.