Three progressive suggestions for helping with the shortage of psychiatrists

Three progressive suggestions for helping with the shortage of psychiatrists

The online news service Medium.com published “Telepsychiatry is Not Enough” on 6 -22-16.  This article reviews statistics about the shortage of psychiatrists in the US, the efforts to expand access to psychiatrist using telehealth, and concerns about how this does not meet the needs of underserved communities.

The author, a psychologist, goes on to suggest three possible strategies to help with the problem:

  1. Increase screening for mental health problems by non-psychiatrist health care professionals, increase use of technology, such as computer assisted screening inventories, and offer screenings at every medical encounter.
  2. Improve mental health services provided to “lower-severity” patients, which will often reduce the need for psychiatric care and more intensive mental health services.
  3. Help patients with mental health problems better manage their problems between visits, such as by providing remote monitoring between visits and helping with self-management skills and supportive resources. Although the author does not mention case management and similar services, this could be an important component for patients with more serious mental health problems.

mhconcierge’s take: The author is the co-founder of a company that provides screening and treatment planning services, so of course he is hoping to promote his company, but his advice is still worth considering.  Several of his suggestions could be implemented by non-psychiatrist mental health professionals, and could both help people in need of mental health services and could also expand the practice of non-medical mental health services.

One Response to “Three progressive suggestions for helping with the shortage of psychiatrists”

  1. Milton Strauss says:

    Point 3 has merit and could be implemented without major increases in non-medical care providers. On the other hand, there are issues with the other two recommendations in my view. Regarding #1, there is literature suggesting that patients are often not receptive to screening, there are high false positive rates with one-time screens and the conflation of (dis)tress with depression in many screening measures, and the ethical issues associated with case finding without adequate resources for intervention. And the resources are limited at all levels of behavioral/health care. The limited resources and few prospects for increased government support for early intervention reduce the likelihood that #2 is feasible.

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