NEW STUDY: “Are There Other Options?: Child and Adolescent Telepsychiatry Services for Rural Population”
A new study by the University Of Missouri School Of Medicine proves that telehealth services help to treat underserved areas. Telepsychiatry, the practice of psychiatry sessions via secure video, is helping to bridge the mental health access gap.
Mirna Becevic, Ph.D., an assistant research professor of telemedicine at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of this study expresses the current shortage in psychiatric help for children and adolescents in certain areas of the country.
“The Council on Graduate Medical Education, a committee of the Department of Health and Human Services, advised in 1990 of the anticipated need for 30,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists by the year 2000. However, today only about 8,300 physicians specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry. This shortage not only affects youth in rural locations, but children in all underserved areas.”
With this shortage comes a call for a solution. Becevic’s study explored the option of telepsychiatry, and how well it would work for rural areas in need. It was found that of 179 patients from 19 ZIP codes (mostly rural areas) made 662 appointments for psychiatric help using the Missouri Telehealth Network. The average age of the patients was 16.
After identifying the amount of Child & Adolescent Psychiatrists in major parts of the state of Missouri, it was concluded that the average distance a patient would need to travel for care was 22.2 miles. The furthest distance would have been more than 300 miles.
“Our findings indicate that there is limited access to child and adolescent psychiatric services in our state,” Becevic said. “More important, our study illustrates how remote populations have severe barriers to access. The mental health shortage, especially in rural areas, is not a new discovery. However, this study highlights the severity of the need for mental health services in our state, especially for children and adolescents.”
The study, “Are There Other Options?: Child and Adolescent Telepsychiatry Services for Rural Populations,” was published in The Journal of Health Management on May 19, 2016.