Feasibility, Acceptability, and Sustainability of Telepsychiatry for Children and Adolescents

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ObjectiveThis study examined the feasibility, acceptability, and sustainability of a telepsychiatry service for children and adolescents living in nonmetropolitan communities.MethodsUsing high-bandwidth interactive video teleconferencing, psychiatrists at a children's hospital provided care to patients of primary care physicians at four nonmetropolitan sites. Review of one-year utilization provided feasibility data. Surveys of referring physicians examined acceptability of telepsychiatry. Reimbursement records provided sustainability data.ResultsOverall, 387 sessions were provided to 172 youths (mean=2.25 sessions) whose clinical profiles were representative of national samples. Referring providers endorsed high satisfaction with telepsychiatric care, although pediatricians were consistently more satisfied than family physicians. Sustainability of telepsychiatry is challenged by infrastructure costs and low reimbursement by public payers.ConclusionsTelepsychiatry is a feasible and acceptable approach to providing psychiatric services to youths in underserved communities. Sustainability will depend on developing financial alternatives to fee-for-service, especially if caseloads emphasize publicly funded programs.

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