Is Telepsychiatry as Effective as Face-to-Face Visits?


Interested in telemedicine, but unsure of the clinical outcomes, cost-effectiveness and patient satisfaction it delivers? Thanks to recent advances in technology, telepsychiatry has become an increasingly effective way to treat patients, and drive patient satisfaction. This e-Psychiatry guide will provide you with evidence based research on the proven clinical outcomes of telepsychiatry programs, along with data on the ease of implementation and cost savings of using telepsychiatry. 

Across 21 studies, telepsychiatry has shown similar diagnostic accuracy and similar patient outcomes for conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorder and more. Four recent clinical trials have shown similar or superior outcomes for medication management services conducted via telepsychiatry over face-to-face visits. Quoting one study from the American Journal of Psychiatry, “Contracting with an off-site telemedicine-based collaborative care team can yield better outcomes than implementing practice-based collaborative care with locally available staff.” 

A separate study from the American Journal of Psychiatry reported, “Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and Beck Depression Inventory scores improved over the treatment period and did not differ between treatment groups (Telepsychiatry & Face-to-Face). The two groups were equally adherent to appointments and medication treatment. Remote treatment of depression by means of telepsychiatry and in-person treatment of depression have comparable outcomes and equivalent levels of patient adherence, patient satisfaction, and health care cost.

Another study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed, “Clinical and process outcomes indicate delivering cognitive-behavioral group treatment for PTSD-related anger problems via videoteleconferencing is an effective and feasible way to increase access to evidence-based care for veterans residing in rural or remote locations.”

Reduced No-Show Rates with Telepsych

Study after study has shown proven clinical outcomes for telepsychiatry. But the good news doesn’t stop there! Research has also shown reduced appointment cancellation rates for Telepsych over traditional face-to-face visits. One study reported that “Research has established that increase in patient satisfaction leads to decrease missed appointments, 7%-10% missed appointments compared to non-telepsychiatry rates of 35%-42% of missed visits

Other studies have shown similar decreases in no show rates with the use of telepsych. “In a clinic that compared utilization data for 7,523 telepsychiatry appointments and 115,148 FTF appointments, patients kept more telepsychiatry appointments than FTF appointments (92% telepsychiatry vs 87% FTF). Also, patients were less likely to cancel telepsychiatry appointments (3.5% vs 4.8%) and were significantly less likely to be no-shows (4.2% vs 7.8%).”

Telepsychiatry Cost-Savings

Even better, telepsych has been shown to be less costly and deliver superior ROI than face-to-face care. Cost-savings were more apparent for rural facilities and FQHCs. Although some facilities reported increased costs to setup the needed telepsychiaty technology, they also reported a “Tipping point” where after a few sessions, telepsychiatry rapidly began delivering greater cost savings. Telepsych especially helps in reducing indirect costs of care such as clinic space needed to conduct sessions, administrative support, and transportation.  

Patient Satisfaction with Telepsych

Lastly, telepsych boasts extremely high patient satisfaction. A Veterans Administration study showed over 90% patient satisfaction rate!

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