Telehealth Supports Collaborative Care Model in Addressing Mental Health Needs of Rural Patients
Traditionally, primary care clinics connect patients who have mental health care needs to specialists like psychiatrists in a collaborative care model. However, rural clinics often lack the workforce capacity to provide collaborative behavioral health services. In a new qualitative study, rural Washington primary care clinics adopted telehealth methods to connect remotely with specialists. The study found that telepsychiatric collaboration prepared primary care physicians and rural clinic staff to deliver high quality mental health care in underserved areas.
Study authors interviewed 17 clinical, support and administrative staff members of three rural primary care clinics. They found that through telepsychiatric consultation, all members of the clinic learned how to better serve the needs of mental health patients. Primary care doctors learned to work proficiently with these patients. Care managers learned to appreciate how medical issues affect mental health and how to diagnose and assess mental health issues, and consulting psychiatrists learned how to coach a primary care team, serve as educators and lead program implementation. The collaborative care model provides important benefits that other rural primary care clinics should consider adopting to help meet the needs of patients with mental health disorders.
Telepsychiatric Consultation as a Training and Workforce Development Strategy for Rural Primary Care
Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD, et al
Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle