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Let Telepsychiatry Impede Spread of Coronavirus

No specialties may lend themselves more completely to use of videoconferencing than psychiatry and addiction medicine, especially for providing psychotherapy or counseling. The coronavirus pandemic should prompt all professionals in those specialties to drop requirements for office visits or face-to-face encounters in favor of teleconferencing immediately. Prescribing drugs? All regulators should temporarily (at least) suspend rules requiring in-person encounters for prescribing.

This will save lives.

Abandon perfunctory procedures often performed in offices, such as vital signs and drug screens. You can send the patient to a lab for lab work. Just use Google Hangouts, Skype or FaceTime. Your patients will appreciate you for it.

If you worry about security, consider how much you worry when you talk to a patient by phone with no video. Do you realize the patient could be using Google Voice or Hangouts on their end anyway?

Not only will telemedicine reduce risk of exposure between yourself and patients, but patients who use public transportation will avoid exposing themselves and others. You will also reduce risks for your family. If you or your patients drive to appointments, you will also reduce carbon emissions and risk of accidents, especially for patients using drugs that may affect their motor skills. Everyone will save time and money.

As always, if your teleconference (or even telephone) contact reveals a need for a face-to-face encounter, you can advise accordingly and immediately, without having to schedule an office visit which may come too late.

Berry Edwards, MD

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