Twenty-five percent of adults in the United States experience some form of mental illness, and 50 percent of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime, according the Center for Disease Control. However, a 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey found that less than one-quarter of American adults who have a mental illness received treatment. Most mental illnesses can be successfully managed with appropriate treatment, substantially reducing the associated morbidity of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. But barriers to such treatment exist, including a shortage of mental health professionals, cost, and social stigma, according to a study conducted by the California HealthCare Foundation.
“By insisting that patients come to our offices, we’re excluding potentially millions of patients who need care,” says Carolyn Turvey, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and vice chair of the American Telemedicine Association’s Telemental Health special interest group.
Telemental health options, such as Barton Telehealth, can help to break down these barriers. Care provided on Barton Telehealth will enable fewer doctors to serve more patients, and can reach more traditionally underserved regions. The American Telemedicine Association notes that psychiatry is particularly suited to the telehealth field, as it does not require an in-person, physical assessment of the patient that other areas of medicine require. The ATA further notes that “patients can be reliably assessed, diagnosed, and treated with pharmacology and psychotherapy in outpatient clinics with a variety of videoconferencing equipment and communications protocols.” By addressing societal, financial, and geographical barriers to mental health care, psychiatric telemedicine, such as that seen in Barton Telehealth, will improve access, adherence, and continuity of care in the mental health field.