AACAP envisions a time when all children with psychiatric illness have access to the care they need. However, an increased demand for mental health care has not been met by an expansion of services. Further, most child and adolescent psychiatrists practice in major urban and coastal areas leading to a deficit in, and maldistribution of, the child and adolescent psychiatry workforce. As a consequence, a majority of affected children do not receive the psychiatric care they need, a situation that is anticipated to continue into the foreseeable future. New models of care are needed to address this need.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) supports the use of telemedicine to deliver care remotely to under-served communities. CMS defines telemedicine as the delivery of healthcare services through real-time interactive videoconferencing. Both auditory and visual capabilities are required to meet this definition.
When telemedicine is used to provide psychiatric services, the term telepsychiatry is used. Increasingly, both public and commercial insurers are reimbursing telepsychiatry services and private agencies are contracting for telepsychiatry services. Thus, telepsychiatry offers a major advance in helping communities build their capacity for providing necessary psychiatric services.
Telepsychiatry is no longer a service delivery model used solely to reach underserved communities. It offers an alternative to families experiencing other barriers to care, such as work demands and school activities. Home-based services are especially helpful to families and offer psychiatrists an ecologically valid perspective of their patients’ environment. Telepsychiatry services are offered to many community settings such as schools, mental health centers, primary care centers, correctional settings, and residential treatment facilities. The benefits of telepsychiatry are not restricted to increasing access to care: Telepsychiatry also helps providers diversify their practices. Benefits include reaching new populations in need of specialized care, such as autism or obsessive compulsive disorder. Providers may reach out to communities of interest without travel and time away from families. Telepsychiatry contracts help providers build new revenue streams.
This section provides aspiring and established telepsychiatrists resources for their practices.