Perception of doctors and patients regarding telepsychiatry services during the COVID-19 pandemic: Experience from the state of Kerala, India
Keywords:COVID 19 pandemic, telepsychiatry, mental health care delivery
Introduction: The present article aims to describe the experience of organizing a telepsychiatry program to ensure continuity of care during the COVID-19 pandemic from the doctors’ as well as the patients’ perspectives. Methods: We initiated a synchronous telepsychiatry program for continuity of care using a Government-sponsored online platform with facilities for consulting a psychiatrist and e-prescription. Three months later we conducted a Video Focus Group discussion (VFGD) among the doctors involved in the program and telephonic interviews with randomly selected patients and caretakers to evaluate the merits and demerits of the program and to elicit suggestions for improvement. Results: The online services were availed by 120 patients (55% males) with the majority in the 19-60 years age group; 47.5% of them were availing psychiatry consultation for the first time. Overall, depression and anxiety were the common diagnoses. Both doctors and patients felt that online services are feasible and acceptable, ensure adequate privacy and provide the opportunity to avail of mental health services without stigma. Conclusions: Telepsychiatry has the potential to develop into an alternate model of mental health service delivery and it is more advantageous to women, the elderly, and those with travel difficulties. Mental health support to people in prisons, government residential facilities, and geographically isolated areas through online platforms is a feasible and cost-effective option. Definite legal and ethical guidelines on telepsychiatry should be formulated with facilities for training for professionals. Online platforms should be more user-friendly and tailor-made to provide psychotherapy and counseling services in addition to pharmacotherapy.
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Copyright (c) 2023 K Ravindren Rajith, P Ashokkumar, P K Anish, Amith Gangadharan, P M Neeny, Padinharath Krishnakumar, Jobin Tom (Author)
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