TeleMental Health in the UK
Sridhar Vaitheswaran and colleagues just completed a survey study of telemental health services in Scotland. They report that telemental health services have been available since the 1950s but only expanded to general use in the 1990s. Online mental health technology has been used most often in North America, particularly Canada, and Australia.
A key initial focus of this technology has traditionally been remote or rural service delivery. However, telemental health has great potential benefit for patients and providers in non-rural settings since it offers convenient access to specialists, case conferencing for complex patients, comprehensive discharge planning for inpatients, and forensic and suicide risk assessments, as well as standard psychological assessment and treatment. Barriers to adoption of telemental health services in the UK were shown to include limited availability of adequate training and experience and insufficient access to equipment and appropriate technical support.
TeleMental Health in Canada
An online survey of Canadian mental health professionals providing telemental health services to First Nations (indigenous) clients in remote and rural areas was conducted by Kerri Gibson and her colleagues in Toronto. Out of 63 respondents only 16 reported having received training in videoconferencing use. About half the mental health providers never used telemental health technology while almost 20% used it once every few months and only 1% used it more than once per month.
However, almost 40% found the technology easy to use, while only 15% found it very difficult. In-depth interviews were conducted with the survey respondents with the most direct experience with telemental health service delivery with this population. A quantitative analysis of this data summarized the advantages, disadvantages and challenges of using telemental health technology with First Nations communities and suggested ways to incorporate these findings in future delivery of telemental health services to this population.