I’ve really liked the first two posts (in a planned series of six) on telepsychiatry at the Shrinkrapping blog . The first post talks about a new telepsychiatry project which started in 2007 in South Carolina . The program is already working in seventeen hospitals, with plans to expand to 45-60 hospitals by the time the study is fully ramped up. With that much data, there should be some really good solid answers to a lot of questions by the time the study is complete.
The second post talks about the hardware and software setup that the blog author uses. He’s using an expensive Polycom system. (I understand why, but with Skype going to high-def resolution, I think there will soon be much cheaper alternatives.) South Carolina sounds much more wired than Maryland: He can get a lot of information out of statewide databases than I could.
I had to smile though at the end of the second post. With lots of access to databases, top of the line equipment, and what sounds like a fantastic organizational system, the output of the telepsychiatry consult is faxed to the doctor who requested it.
Faxed!? Why? When are we going to get rid of faxes in medicine? Except for certain rare cases, I would always rather get an electronic version of a document. Basically, my fax machine just turns everything to pdf anyway. Why send a consult note that isn’t computer readable (except maybe with a OCR)? Are they killing more trees than they need to in South Carolina?
Seriously though, I think that most of psychiatry is going to look a lot more like the telepsychiatry in South Carolina a lot sooner than people expect. As I’ve mentioned before–telepsychiatry, it’s not just for institutions anymore…