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Telepsychiatry is the use of communication and information technologies to provide psychiatry care or support from a distance.1 The communication modules that could be used include phones, fax, e-mail, the Internet, still imaging and live interactive 2-way audio-video communication.2

Live interactive 2-way audio-video communication, also known as video conferencing, is the main communication tool used in telepsychiatry. There is a wide range of video systems in use and they vary in cost of system, the cost of use and in the degree of resolution of the video image. On one end of the spectrum, there are systems that use video cameras at both ends of the communicating sites, personal computers with video monitor and high-speed communication networks. The other end would see a system that consists of small video cameras at both sites, which connect to television receivers and use a telephone line for communication and transmission.


Whatever the set-up of the video system, video conferencing can be used for primary and secondary clinical consultative sessions. Telepsychiatry can also be used to deliver the following services:3

  • Assessments and diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Psychological testing
  • Medicolegal assessments
  • Case conferencing and management
  • Education – continuing education and supervision
  • Support
  • Administration and data transfer
  • Research

Healthcare personnel involved in telepsychiatry should ensure that patient’s privacy and confidentiality of communication are upheld. The medical records obtained from telepsychiatry sessions should be maintained with the same standards as those acquired from face-to-face consultations.

Governing bodies within individual countries where it is practised sets guidelines on how telepsychiatry should be practised. In the United States, the American Psychiatry Association sets the guidelines for the practice of telepsychiatry.


  1. Turner, Jeanine Warisse. [WWW] Telepsychiatry as a Case Study of Presence: Do You Know What You Are Missing? JCMC. 2001 July;6(4). http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol6/issue4/turner.html (25TH September 2003).

  2. Hilty, D. M.; et al. Telepsychiatry: an overview for psychiatrists. CNS Drugs. 2002;16(8):527-48.

  3. The Department of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario. [WWW] Telepsychiatry Guidelines and Procedures for Clinical Activities. http://www.psychiatry.med.uwo.ca/ecp/info/toronto/telepsych/
    (25TH September 2003).

Useful Links

  • Telepsychiatry
    Useful information on telepsychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association.



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Last Updated: 10 August 2006.

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