Psychiatric Care: Coming to a Computer Near You?

December 1, 2008

Persons who live in rural areas in this country often lack access to adequate mental health care. Psychiatrists from Michigan State University (MSU) are tackling their state’s lack of resources by providing counseling via videoconference for patients with psychiatric disorders who live in remote areas.

Persons who live in rural areas in this country often lack access to adequate mental health care. Psychiatrists from Michigan State University (MSU) are tackling their state’s lack of resources by providing counseling via videocon

ference for patients with psychiatric disorders who live in remote areas.

To cope with the growing number of psychiatric cases in Michigan’s rural areas, particularly among children and adolescents, doctors at MSU’s department of psychiatry may “see” up to 10 patients on any given morning via a video connection without ever having to leave their office.

Psychiatrist Paul Quinlan, who regularly holds videoconferences with patients, noted, “We do take a slightly different approach to establishing rapport, but we’re finding patients respond well and are very comfortable.” To participate, patients visit their county’s community mental health center where they are electronically connected with an MSU psychiatrist. The program, which began 3 years ago, is now at capacity and has become one of the most active programs in the Midwest.

Jed Magen, chairperson of MSU’s department of psychiatry, said that the center was developed “in response to a shortage in psychiatrists-a problem seen not only in Michigan but nationwide. The problem is especially acute in child psychiatry. This is the only viable solution.”