What is the scope of psychiatry as a medical practice? Is it just therapy or psychopharmacological modality of practice? Is it confined to the hospital or traditional outpatient clinical setting? Should it continue to just conjure up the image of a couch in a private practice room? Is psychiatry limited to urban centers or community clinics?
I would argue that psychiatry is all of these and much more. As a medical field, it is unique in that it can claim to be both a primary care and a specialty care discipline at the same time. Our scope can extend beyond our traditional roles in a medical setting and is well suited to be practiced in wide ranging collaborative, innovative, and integrated models of care. We can be contributors in the basic sciences laboratory and to society at large. The richness of how psychiatry can be applied and contribute in our community is the focus of our special issue.
With the rise of information technology, psychiatrists can provide evidence-based care to remote, underserved areas with ease. One of telemedicine’s first application was in mental health and we continue to push the boundaries in how psychiatry is delivered.
As discussed by Dr Saeed, psychiatry has moved beyond using telemedicine as just a tool in reaching distant areas. It is now being integrated in mobile personal devices, leveraging application tools and has linked diverse providers. It has also evolved into a specialized delivery system to support diverse clinical-care models. Allowing for more flexibility in how psychiatry can be delivered, telepsychiatry has blossomed into a potent tool in our drive to increase access to high quality care.
Dr Koh is Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego. Dr Koh reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this Special Report.