Telepsychiatry for the treatment of depression offers equal or better patient satisfaction and symptom relief compared with face-to-face interventions, according to a systematic review published online in Community Mental Health Journal.
“In all of the studies noted, satisfaction (when measured) was either equivalent to face-to-face or significantly higher for all of the groups that included televideo as the intervention,” researchers wrote. “This suggests that, overall, depressed patients find mental health care delivered by televideo to be at least as acceptable as traditional, in-person treatment.”
“This may help ease the concern that patients may find telepsychiatry to be cold or impersonal,” the authors added.
The review included 14 studies. Of the 5 studies that looked at patient acceptability and satisfaction, 2 found no difference between telepsychiatry and in-person interventions, and 3 found patients were actually more satisfied with telepsychiatry.
Among studies that investigated efficacy, 2 found treatment efficacy the same for telepsychiatry and in-person care, and 4 showed better patient response with telepsychiatry, according to the review.
Regarding cost-effectiveness, studies found that despite increased upfront expenses for required technology, telepsychiatry would eventually be more cost-effective than in-person care because of reduced travel expenses.
“It is also worth noting that more people now have access to televideo technology via some device of their own, so the costly requirement for a new computer or other device may not be necessary in the future,” researchers added. “In addition, the cost of technology overall continues to decrease due to innovation in the market, and likely this will result in televideo becoming even more cost-effective in future.”
The review did have several limitations, including scant data from randomized controlled trials. What’s more, multiple studies consisted solely of US veterans, an overwhelmingly Caucasian and male population that, researchers noted, may limit the generalizability of results.
“Further research (is) needed to directly compare psychiatrist assessment over televideo versus in-person,” researchers concluded, “and determine if particular patient subgroups benefit more from televideo or in-person intervention.”