It is widely recognized that mental illness affects a significant proportion of the population; however, it is complicated to determine exact numbers. This problem can be attributed to such issues as the changing definitions of mental illness as well as difficulties in classifying, diagnosing, and reporting mental disorders. Limitations to adequate mental health services including social stigma, cultural incompatibility between patients and providers, language barriers, lack of insurance and logistical barriers. In addition, significant differences in socioeconomic status, lifestyle behaviors, and access to care have resulted in health disparities between rural and urban communities (Institute of Medicine, 2004). According to Sulzbacher et al., many families who live in rural areas do not have the financial, social or psychological resources, to travel to distant urban centers to obtain adequate care particularly for a chronic mental health problem. There is also evidence to suggest that mental illness in rural areas is as nearly as high as among people in metropolitan areas. However, the accessibility of mental health services and professionals in rural areas is extremely low compared to major cities and metropolitan areas. Such barriers can impede the diagnosing, treating and reporting of mental illnesses and have also been instrumental in developing and improving telepsychiatry and e-mental health models.
Telepsychiatry has been used for many years and is highly regarded as an area where the use of telemedicine has been successful. It has been defined as “The delivery of healthcare and the exchange of healthcare information for purposes of providing psychiatric services across distances” (Wootten et al. 2003). A typical telepsychiatry setup includes a video camera, microphone, speakers (or headset), and one or two monitors at each end of the system. Often, separate displays or a picture-in-picture (if one monitor) are used to enable all parties to see both outgoing and incoming video. This offers opportunities not only for clinical consultations but treatment, education, and other activities within the field of mental health. There currently exists some evidence for the effectiveness (Hilty et al. 2003), cost effectiveness (Hayler & Gangure, 2003), and acceptability of telepsychiatry among both service users and providers (Monnier et al. 2003), in a variety of psychiatric settings including psychotherapy, child, adolescent, adult and geriatric psychiatry. Wootten et al. (2003), also states that telepsychiatry has many applications including connecting patients and mental health professionals, allowing effective diagnosis, treatment, education, consultation and transfer of medical data.
Satisfaction among Patients/ Providers
Telepsychiatry has been shown to be appealing to many patients especially those with limited access to mental health services and the majority of studies that have been conducted...