"Provider deserts" described by the APA

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) acknowledges that barriers exist for patients in rural environments. Namely, psychiatric care providers are not located in close physical proximity or may be absent altogether. The mental health field sometimes refers to this phenomena as “provider deserts”.

The APA has declared telepsychiatry as one part of the solution to this barrier and cites research suggesting:

  • Patient, family, and provider satisfaction are higher when using telepsychiatry in rural settings

  • Telepsychiatry is able to help patients address a wide array of disorders without the need for an in-person appointment

  • Telepsychiatry can fit in a variety of treatment models (e.g., direct psychiatric care, consultation care, and collaborative care).

The APA cites three essential aspects of telepsychiatry:

  • Teamwork: Psychiatrists working alongside interdisciplinary teams of counselors/social workers, primary care providers, and other professionals.

  • Enhanced Provider Matching: There may be more choice in provider with telepsychiatry, so patients are more able to self-select therapists that they feel are a good fit based on their identities and needs (e.g., cultural, ethnic, and language matching).

  • Empowering the Community: By strengthening the psychiatric care that primary care providers are able to provide directly or in collaboration with telepsychiatrists.

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