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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 273-280

Telepsychiatry in the developing world: Whither promised joy?

Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Subho Chakrabarti
Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Sector-12, Chandigarh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-9962.193200

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Telepsychiatry, the use of information and communication technologies to provide psychiatric services from a distance, has matured as a mode of service delivery and has expanded its reach since its inception. Telepsychiatry promotes equality of access to high-quality specialized care for underserved users. It enables, empowers and brings about high levels of satisfaction among users. Telepsychiatry can deliver a broad array of clinical services and support several other nonclinical activities. Accumulated evidence demonstrates that clinical outcomes of telepsychiatric interventions are comparable to conventional treatment among patients of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, and diagnostic groups across diverse clinical settings. However, negative attitudes, concerns about the quality of the evidence, doubts about cost-effectiveness, technological vagaries, uncertainty regarding the doctor–patient alliance, and a number of legal, ethical and regulatory hurdles continue to hinder the widespread implementation of telepsychiatric services. A particularly disappointing aspect has been the lack of development of telepsychiatric services in developing countries, where they are required the most because of the large mental-health gap in care with the more traditional forms of services. Problems of costs, lack of infrastructure and connectivity, shortage of trained personnel, sociocultural differences, limited data on effectiveness, and lack of institutional support are the principal challenges to the wider adoption of telepsychiatry in these resource-constrained countries. It is evident that much more effort by all stakeholders, innovative solutions, and hybrid models of care are required before telepsychiatry is able to fulfil its true potential and bring about the promised change in mental health outcomes in the developing world.

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