Telehealth Improves Mental Health Referrals

Peter M. Yellowlees, MBBS, MD


June 13, 2019

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

This is the Medscape Psychiatry Minute. I'm Dr Peter Yellowlees.

Many children referred for mental health care to specialty clinics do not attend the initial appointment. Now a team of investigators[1] from the University of Washington, Seattle, have performed a study examining whether the process for referring children from primary care to community mental health clinics is improved by having an initial triaging appointment via videoconference. They enrolled 342 children aged 5-12, of whom 87% were Latino and 62% were boys.

The investigators reported that those using the video referral process had three times the odds of completing the initial screening visit. Intervention participants took 6.6 days longer to achieve completion of the screening visit but also reported greater satisfaction with the referral system. Once the screening visit took place, over 80% of eligible intervention and control participants (174 of 213) went on to a mental health visit.

This is a well-conducted, simple study reporting positive results by demonstrating that greater access to care for children with mental health problems can be achieved following a video triage visit. This finding is important, given that up to 20% of all new patient visits in both adult and child psychiatry are no-shows. It suggests that if the treating specialty provider can reduce anxiety and apprehension about the consultation by being available for a triage video visit, no-show rates should go down. Mental health providers and clinics are unfortunately adversely affected by stigma in general, and this video-visit approach may well be one way of reducing such stigma.

Thank you for listening to this Medscape Psychiatry Minute. Do continue to enjoy your practice.

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