February 10, 2020
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Telepsychiatry an 'effective tool' for perinatal integrated care

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A study published in Psychiatric Services has highlighted the efficacy of telepsychiatry-enabled perinatal integrated care for treating depression during and after pregnancy.

“Early identification and treatment of perinatal depression can improve outcomes for mothers and children by promoting both parenting success and early childhood development,” Jay H. Shore, MD, MPH, of University of Colorado School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Screening and diagnosis in primary care settings is an effective way to increase identification of perinatal depression. Available data indicate that routine perinatal and postpartum depression screening is undertaken in only 15% to 20% of women; of those diagnosed through screening, only 40% to 60% will receive treatment.”

The researchers piloted a model of telepsychiatry-enabled integrated care for an underserved perinatal population at an urban women’s clinic. They collected behavioral health screening data from 712 clinic patients. Further, they collected more in-depth process and outcome measures, including services utilized, treatment engagement and delivery and postpartum patient outcomes, from 135 patients referred for behavioral health services. They applied a descriptive design to conduct and evaluate analyses of program outcomes using nationally published metrics for context.

Shore and colleagues reported the successful implementation of a telehealth-enabled integrated care model within a specialty obstetrics practice, with identification and treatment of behavioral health issues having exceeded nationally published rates. They also reported an association between the model’s use and positive indices related to breastfeeding behavior and birth weight. Moreover, telepsychiatry-supported integrated care was associated with significantly higher rates of perinatal depression screening and treatment engagement compared with national rates reported in the literature.

“These initial results point to telepsychiatry as an effective tool for expanding perinatal integrated care and lay the foundation for further study and model refinement,” the research wrote. “The results also add to the growing body of evidence for the use of telepsychiatry-supported integrated care across diverse clinical settings and patient populations.” – by Joe Gramigna

Disclosures: Shore reports receiving royalties from American Psychiatric Publishing and Springer Press. The other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.