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Relias Healthcare Study Links Telepsychiatry to Improvements in Access to Mental Health Care in Rural Areas

A recent study done by Relias and Genoa shows that telepsychiatry, when combined with standard in-person visits, increases the timeliness of treatment of patients with severe mental illness in rural areas. This is a key finding, as access to psychiatric services is often stretched thin in rural areas. The study also found the promptness of telepsychiatry services increased the number of regular psychiatric appointments for these same people.

“We were delighted to serve as the research arm for this important body of work. .  The Relias mission is to measurably improve lives of those we touch” said Carol Clayton, Ph.D., executive vice president of population health at Relias. “By serving as an independent research arm for Genoa we were able to measure, validate and now, based on findings, encourage use of advanced technologies, such as telepsychiatry, with underserved and rural disparate populations.”

Recently published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Rural Mental Health, the peer-reviewed study analyzed data from Medicaid patients in rural Missouri following an inpatient admission or emergency room visit. Results showed that patients were seen seven days sooner and were more likely to schedule regular follow up appointments by 34% when both telepsychiatry and in-person visits were used.

The utilization of telepsychiatry in non-metropolitan locations helps solve a problem faced by over half the population of these areas. One in five Americans in rural areas live with a mental illness, yet 65% of non-metropolitan areas lack access to in-person psychiatric care.

The study included 242 patients and analyzed data using a retrospective quasi-experimental design. Results showed patients receiving hybrid care of telepsychiatry encounters with in-person visits experienced greater access to care compared to patients receiving in-person care only.

More findings:

  • Patients were seen on average within 16.4 days, compared to 23.6 days for the in-person only control group.
  • 67% had at least one outpatient encounter per month compared to 50.3% of the control group.
  • There were no statistically significant differences between groups for emergency department visits, antipsychotic medication adherence, and readmissions in the window studied. Further studies will be needed to determine the long-term impact on cost of care.

Christy Power, vice president of health services at Preferred Family Healthcare in Hannibal, Missouri, whose patients were studied in the analysis, emphasizes the potential impact of telepsychiatry in the treatment of people in rural areas. “Providing adequate psychiatric care to our rural population is among the top challenges in our behavioral health system because of scarce resources. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of telepsychiatry as an important tool in the rural mental health provider’s toolbox, but the potential is tremendous.”

Download the full study


About Relias Population Health Management

Relias’ Population Health Management Solution supports the use of targeted evidence-based interventions with data insights to improve care quality and achieve better outcomes. The Solution helps payers and providers manage the health of consumer populations and allows visibility into trend and outcome of key performance metrics. We help payers and providers understand where they are succeeding and where there are opportunities for improvement, transforming data from information into action to support evidence-based interventions and targeted clinical decision support that will lead to better outcomes.

Learn more about Relias Population Health Management

About Genoa Healthcare

Genoa Healthcare has been serving the behavioral health community for nearly 20 years, providing pharmacy services, telepsychiatry and medication management solutions. Today, Genoa Healthcare serves 800,000 individuals annually in 47 states and the District of Columbia, and fills more than 15 million prescriptions per year. Genoa Healthcare has more than 450 pharmacies located on-site within community mental health centers. Genoa Healthcare is part of OptumRx, a leading pharmacy care services company.

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