Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 55  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3-11

Telepsychiatry: Promise, potential, and challenges


Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Savita Malhotra
Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh
India
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Source of Support: Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, New Delhi, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.105499

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Despite the high prevalence and potentially disabling consequences of mental disorders, specialized mental health services are extremely deficient, leading to the so-called 'Mental Health Gap'. Moreover, the services are concentrated in the urban areas, further worsening the rural-urban and tertiary primary care divide. Strengthening of and expanding the existing human resources and infrastructure, and integrating mental health into primary care appear to be the two major solutions. However, both the strategies are riddled with logistic difficulties and have a long gestation period. In such a scenario, telepsychiatry or e-mental health, defined as the use of information and communication technology to provide or support psychiatric services across distances, appears to be a promising answer. Due to its enormous potential, a review of the existing literature becomes imperative. An extensive search of literature was carried out and has been presented to delineate the modes of communication, acceptability and satisfaction, reliability, outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and legal and ethical challenges related to telepsychiatry. Telepsychiatry has been applied for direct patient care (diagnosis and management), consultation, and training, education, and research purposes. Both real-time, live interaction (synchronous) and store-forward (asynchronous) types of technologies have been used for these purposes. A growing amount of literature shows that training, supervision, and consultation by specialists to primary care physicians through telepsychiatry has several advantages. In this background, we have further focused on the models of telepsychiatry best suited for India, considering that mental health care can be integrated into primary care and taken to the doorstep of patients in the community.



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