What About Telepsychiatry? A Systematic Review

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Background: Mental illness has become a significant worldwide health issue in recent years. There is presently insufficient evidence to definitively determine the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different health care models. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of videoconferencing in mental illness.

Data Sources: Literature searches were performed in Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, and The Cochrane Library Controlled Trial Registry databases (1997–May 2008). A search of the following terms was used: e-health, mental disorders (MeSH term), mental health (MeSH term), mental health services (MeSH term), telecare, teleconsultation, telehome, telemedical, telemedicine, telemental, telepsychiatric, telepsychiatry, televideo, videoconference, and videophone.

Study Selection: Type of disease, interventions, and clinical outcomes or patient satisfaction were identified. Exclusion criteria included studies that did not analyze intervention outcomes and studies with a sample size of fewer than 10 cases. Peer review and quality assessment according to Cochrane recommendations were required for inclusion.

Data Extraction/Synthesis: Of 620 identified articles, 10 randomized controlled trials are included (1,054 patients with various mental disorders). There were no statistically significant differences between study groups for symptoms, quality of life, and patient satisfaction.

Conclusions: There is insufficient scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of telepsychiatry in the management of mental illness, and more research is needed to further evaluate its efficiency. However, there is a strong hypothesis that videoconference-based treatment obtains the same results as face-to-face therapy and that telepsychiatry is a useful alternative when face-to-face therapy is not possible.

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(2):e1–e5

Submitted: April 28, 2009; accepted June 18, 2009.

Published online: March 25, 2010 (doi:10.4088/PCC.09m00831whi).

Corresponding author: Francisca García-Lizana, MD, PhD, C/Sinesio Delgado 4, pab 4, 28029 Madrid, Spain (fglizana@hotmail.com).

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(2):e1-e5