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Frequently Asked Questions From Patients

About Florida Center for Integrative Telepsychiatry & Telepsychotherapy

Q: What is Telepsychiatry?

A: Telepsychiatry is the practice of psychiatry through a secure internet connection linking patients "at a distance" (such as from their home or office, or anywhere convenient) to a psychiatrist in his/her office. Telepsychiatry also includes a number of related services, such as medication management and psychoeducational counseling provided by psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners, as well as psychotherapy provided by licensed mental health providers, including psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors.

A computer monitor displays the video image and transmits audio, enabling a face-to-face conversation that occurs in real time. Telepsychiatry allows a patient and a physician to see, hear, and speak with each other regardless of where the patient and the physician are located. All you need is a webcam and a high-speed internet connection to have a session with a caring clinician. Telemental health resolves geographic barriers allowing people in even the most remote places to see the highest qualified doctors. Literally, we compress time and space with this sophisticated space-age technology. No longer does distance affect a person's ability to access the best mental health care possible. Telepsychiatry improves access to care for every person, everywhere. It's just like being with the doctor in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Q: Why else should I see a telepsychiatrist instead of one in a physical office?

A: There are many advantages of telepsychiatry. One important difference is time savings, as patients don't have to take time off work with lost income or using up sick or other leave, and don't have to make up excuses or tell people that they are heading to a psychiatric appointment. Saving the time to drive to a psychiatrist's office, finding a place to park, and waiting for the actual appointment, saves you time for the rest of your day. Seeing a psychiatrist in a physical office can waste a half day while, with telepsychiatry, the patient's time is used only for the actual appointment with the psychiatrist or related provider online. Telepsychiatry also resolves geographic barriers by allowing people in even the most remote places to see the highest qualified doctors conveniently. In addition, telepsychiatry improves access to care for everybody everywhere, especially for those who cannot easily travel due to illness or disability.

Q: What are the drawbacks for seeing a telepsychiatrist instead of one in a physical office?

A: Some might say, “it’s too impersonal,” but many people find it much easier to talk about sensitive topics when the doctor is not physically present.

 

Some might wonder if they would receive a lower quality of care at a distance. There is no need for a psychiatrist or related mental health provider to physically examine a patient, and the types of assessment and interventions used by psychiatrists and related mental health providers can be done just as well from a distance. In fact, considerable scientific research demonstrates no difference in the quality of care of psychotherapy delivered over the internet as opposed to that delivered in a physical office.

 

Q: What are some other advantages to seeing a telepsychiatrist?

 

A: Patients might think, “But my psychiatrist is not physically present if I need him or her.” If you’re seeing a psychiatrist in his or her office, and you have a problem, do you show up at the office, or do you call or send them an email? Most people send an email or call. Does it take any more time to send an email or to call someone across the street than it does to call someone or send an email a mile away, a hundred miles away, or even a thousand miles away? No. It’s all the same. If you need a physical exam for significant medical reasons, you wouldn’t get it from psychiatrists in an office anyway, as they would refer you to your primary care physician or an emergency room. In fact, the vast majority of psychiatrists in private practice do not personally admit their private practice patients, voluntarily or involuntarily, or see their patients when hospitalized, as other physicians almost always do this for them. Even a patient who is not considered a danger to self or others, or seen as gravely disabled, is usually admitted through the local emergency department where he/she must first be medically cleared before a psychiatric hospital will agree to admit the patient.

 

Q: Will telepsychiatry replace seeing a doctor in person?

 

A: In most cases, the likely answer is yes. Telepsychiatry should not be seen as a substitute or replacement for all psychiatric services, but the vast amount of what psychiatrists do can be done just as well from a distance, and with so many advantages. For now, patients and their doctors need to have as many options in how to interact as possible, and telepsychiatry provides many clear benefits.