Telepsychiatry Is The Future Of Mental Health Care

Tech developers are foaming at the mouth trying to address the shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals with something called telepsychiatry!

In a day in age where mental health care is at its highest it has ever been, hospitals, clinics, and treatment facilities are unable to keep up with the demand due to the shortage of mental health professionals, specifically psychiatrists. If that doesn’t grab your attention, experts say that it’s only going to get worse within the next decade.

In California, as of 2013, there was a shortage of 336 psychiatrists and forecasted to reach between 729 and 1,848 by 2025, reported by the national projections from the Health Resources and Services Administration, cited by the state Governor’s Office.

In the Chicago, the St. Bernard Hospital, CEO Charles Holland said its extremely hard to recruit psychiatrists as it expands its mental health services. Three years ago, due to the growing demand, they opened an outpatient mental health clinic and next month will expand its inpatient mental health unit from 40 beds to 60 beds.

“We feel it is an emergency. We feel it’s getting worse.”— Marvin Lindsey, CEO of the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois


In 2005, Minnesota depression rates in women living in rural counties were as high as 40 percent, compared to only 13 to 20 percent in urban counties reported by the Department of Health. In more recent years, a report produced by the Minnesota Hospital Association indicated that from 2007 to 2014, there was a 40 percent increase in emergency department use for mental illness encounters in Greater Minnesota, compared to only a 34 percent increase in the Twin Cities.

We can see the demand is here and not stopping from rising higher and higher. So why isn’t there any young, eager students seeking a career in this much-needed industry?

Let’s just be honest, being a procedure-oriented doctor will get a straightforward payoff for fixing a broken arm or leg, rather than a broken heart where psychiatrists know their treatment is more of a lifetime plan.

“There’s no victory lap (in psychiatry) where you can say you fixed that patient, on to the next one,”- Travis Singleton, Senior Vice President of Physician Staffing Firm Merritt Hawkins.


Greater awareness, diminishing stigma and a worsening opioid crisis in America,  are making more individuals seek mental and behavioral health care. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of psychiatrists are over age 55, fueling a retirement wave that experts say exceeds the pipeline of the new doctors who are expected to fill the limited psychiatric residency slots.

What if I told you, one strategy that has shown effective promise for addressing this shortage is telepsychiatry? What is that exactly? Well, it allows patients to obtain psychiatric services from a provider at a distant location through technology such as video consultations. Brilliant!

In Ector County, Texas, Independent School District Head Nurse Laura Mathew, has utilized this technological advancement to help with students at her school when two years ago, Texas Tech’s Chair of Psychiatry, Dr. Bobby Jain, started a program where students could book telepsychiatry appointments through the school nurse. School nurse Laura Mathew says 70 kids have used the program so far.

“We should never discount the power in our pocket,” -Dr. Thomas Kim, the Austin, Texas-based Internist and Telepsychiatrist


Dr. Kim, also in Texas,  has adapted to the new wave of virtual healthcare providers, exchanging the doctor’s office, medical clinic or hospital, for a mobile-based health platform that connects with people wherever they are that need immediate help. This platform has taken high praise in the behavioral health industry, as a fast-growing field in which discreet access to health care has become monumental for improved care, and addressing the shortage of psychiatrists.

“Nowadays we can easily, across a screen, look face-to-face with somebody, and we can do what we normally would do in an office … but then we can also see how that person lives.”-  John Sharp, Chief Behavioral Health Officer for MDLive


“As telemental health care gains in popularity, it gives rise to a number of significant legal and regulatory issues, including privacy and security, follow-up care, emergency care, treatment of minors, and reimbursement, among other things,” says Rene Y. Quashie of Cozen O’Connor’s healthcare practice.

“While some federal laws and regulations (such as HIPAA) apply, most of the issues involve state law, which has resulted in an inconsistent patchwork of laws and regulations that vary widely by state. And there are a number of states that don’t address telemental health specifically in their laws.”

In a recent interview, he said, “The nation is starting to turn a corner in understanding the value of telemental health. The technology has improved dramatically. Healthcare providers are starting to realize the value of technology … in deploying the healthcare experience when and where it’s needed.”

With this new technology taking off and only getting better, it’s a great reassurance and significant step towards addressing the shortages we are experiencing in the mental health care industry.

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