There have been dozens of studies supporting the use of telehealth to deliver health and mental health services using telecommunication. While the most popular method of delivery is still the telephone, many providers are expanding telehealth services to include video teleconferencing. There are a growing number of research studies examining whether telehealth is beneficial in specific treatment situations. Here are a few recent projects:
Interest in Behavioral and Psychological Treatments Delivered Face-to-Face, by Telephone, and by Internet
Mohr, D. C., Siddique, J., Ho, J., Duffecy, J., Jin, L., & Fokuo, J. (2010). Published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40(1), 89-98.
This study examined various methods of delivery for behavioral and psychological treatments. Primary care patients were asked about their interest in alternative care options. Of the 658 respondents, 91.9% were most responsive to in-person treatments, 62.4% expressed interest in telephone consultations, and 48% would consider internet services. Respondents with time constraints were more open to telepractice options.
The Effectiveness of Telemental Health Applications: A Review
Hailey, D., Roine, R., & Ohinmaa, A. (2008). Published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry / La Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 53(11), 769-778.
This review assessed 72 publications on mental healthcare telepractice with administrative or clinical outcomes for quality. Of the literature reviewed, 65 were clinical studies and 32 were found to be of high or good quality. The review assessed each study for both performance and study design. The review found that higher quality results for internet services and telephone consultations than for video conferencing methods. Areas of practice found successful included child psychiatry, depression, dementia, schizophrenia, suicide prevention, posttraumatic stress, panic disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, and smoking prevention. Less successful were general mental health issues and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Telepractice in the assessment and treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review.
Boisvert M, Lang R, Andrianopoulos M, Boscardin ML. Dev Neurorehabil. 2010;13(6):423-32. Epub 2010 Oct 1.
This review assessed studies involving the use of telepractice to deliver services to patients with autism spectrum disorders. Researchers identified and analyzed eight studies based on pre-determined inclusion criteria. The studies were evaluated and summarized based on participant characteristics, technology employed, telepractice services, research methodology, and study results.
The researcher concluded that telehealth services are a promising delivery method for assessment, interventions, and coaching/training for autistic patients and discusses guidelines for practitioners and future studies.
Telepractice research is overwhelmingly positive and supported by the medical community. The remaining hurdles are in the areas of administration, politics, and implementation. As the use of telecommunication expands, will the obstacles grow or be overcome? You tell me.