Increasing Access to Rural Mental Health Care Using Hybrid Care That Includes Telepsychiatry
Hughes, M. Courtney, 1976--
Gorman, Jack M.
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There is a lack of access to mental health care in rural areas of the United States. One potential strategy for increasing access and improving health outcomes for rural dwellers is offering hybrid psychiatric care, a combination of in-person and telepsychiatry services. Although prior research has shown telepsychiatry can help overcome access barriers, there is a lack of research on the use of hybrid care for patients in rural areas following an inpatient admission or an emergency department visit—a time when many patients are in high need of follow-up care. The aim of this project was to examine process and outcome measures associated with mental health to determine the effectiveness of delivering hybrid care to Medicaid-covered patients in rural Missouri following an inpatient admission or an emergency department visit. Data from 242 patients were analyzed using a retrospective quasi-experimental design. The group with hybrid telepsychiatry plus in-person visits had improved timeliness of care and increased number of total outpatient encounters compared to the group with in-person visits only, indicating hybrid care may be more effective than in-person visits alone are. The current study suggests that offering telepsychiatry can help close the gap in access to mental health care between rural and urban populations, particularly during the time after an inpatient admission or an emergency department visit. As telepsychiatry service options continue to grow, making this delivery mode available to rural populations may have a positive impact on mental health outcomes in the United States.