Telepsychiatry is Effectively Combating America’s Doctor Shortage

The United States is currently experiencing a serious dearth in psychiatric doctors. This lack of doctors is resulting in an increasing trend of inaccessible mental health care, particularly among remote areas. In a recent study, it was reported that the country is short nearly 25,000 psychiatrists. In America, 25% of all adults suffer from a serious mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and ADD/ADHD. To make matters worse, 1 in 5 children are also suffering from debilitating mental disorders. Because of this lack of doctors, people aren’t receiving the care they need and deserve.

Not having proper access to psychiatric care is resulting in detrimental effects on our mentally ill population. A lack of treatment leads to an increase in otherwise preventable emergency room visits, as well as an influx of mentally ill persons in the prison system. Not only is this a strain on our country’s money and public resources, but the stigmatization of the mentally ill as “crazy” and “dangerous” is only further perpetuated, and these individuals are left to feel alone and hopeless.

Luckily, recent innovations in telemedicine research are proving to be potential solutions to our country’s mental health issue. Telemedicine psychiatry employs the use of HIPAA compliant video conferencing software, allowing the doctor to meet with the patient remotely. Through this telemedicine platform, the patient is able to confidentially meet with their doctor and discuss their symptoms, and receive therapy as well as diagnoses and prescriptions.

The remote advantages of telepsychiatry are proving to be especially useful in areas that didn’t have psychiatric specialists. Take Rockford Illinois, for example, where patients visit the Rosecrance Ware Center to meet with Dr. Michael Kuna. Through this telemedicine platform, the patient is able to confidentially meet with Dr. Kuna, despite him being 150 miles away, and receive therapy and treatment. The telemedicine psychiatry initiative has been going on for six months now, and is helping provide mental health access to the underserved Illinois area.

While this piloted program is small, it serves as a potential model for underserved areas all over the country. The telemental health market is expected to see over $1 billion in growth from now until 2018, and these innovations will hopefully continue to tackle America’s mental health crisis, one underserved area at a time.

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