February 06, 2020
1 min read

80% of EDs do not receive telepsychiatry services

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Rain E. Freeman

Researchers have found that 20% of EDs in the United States receive telepsychiatry services, according to results of a national survey study published in Psychiatric Services.

“Although telepsychiatry may help many EDs access emergency psychiatric care, there were still 80% of U.S. EDs that did not report receiving telepsychiatry in 2016," Rain E. Freeman, MPH, of the department of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Healio Psychiatry. “EDs may benefit from telepsychiatry, especially if they currently have no other form of emergency psychiatric services.”

Although telepsychiatry is becoming increasingly common in EDs, little research exists regarding this approach. To investigate its prevalence and applications in general EDs in the U.S., the researchers surveyed all 5,375 American EDs in 2016. A total of 4,507 (84%) responded. Of those reporting telepsychiatry services, Freeman and colleagues selected a 15% random sample for a second survey that confirmed telepsychiatry use in 2017. This survey also collected data on applications of telepsychiatry and emergency psychiatric services in each ED.

According to the data from the first survey, 885 (20%) EDs reported receiving telepsychiatry. EDs with a rural location, Critical Access Hospital Designation and higher annual total volume visits were more likely to receive these services, and those that reported being an autonomous freestanding ED were less likely to receive them.

Data from the second survey, which received 105 responses for an 81% response rate, 95 (90%) reported telepsychiatry use. Of these, most (59%) reported telepsychiatry as their only form of emergency psychiatric services. Moreover, 25% received services once a day or more. Telepsychiatry was most commonly used in admission or discharge decisions (80%) and transfer coordination (76%).

“We were a bit surprised at first to find that so many of the EDs we surveyed reported no other form of emergency psychiatric services besides telepsychiatry," Freeman said. "In the beginning, we assumed telepsychiatry complemented other emergency psychiatric services for most EDs, especially where such services were limited. This finding really highlighted for us why telepsychiatry is so critical for many EDs." – by Joe Gramigna

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.