How Students Benefit from Telepsychiatry

Telepsychiatry is now the second-most used form of telemedicine and has helped clinical professionals (as well as students undergoing graduate school training) utilize video conferencing and digital devices for patient visits and their own self-care (Lavergne & Kennedy, 2021). 

In a recent study, Lavergne and Kennedy (2021) explored how willing medical students were to use telepsychiatry during clinical visits—and how well universities supported telepsychiatry learning environments. In their research, Lavergne and Kennedy highlighted the transformative power of telemedicine education. When asked to rate the following statement—that telemedicine and in-person visits were of equal effectiveness—respondents gave this question the lowest confidence score. Students rated this same statement in one of the highest outcome categories after they underwent telemedicine training (Walker et al., 2019; as cited in Lavergne & Kennedy, 2021).

Interestingly, participants not only had increased confidence and a desire to implement telemedicine services, they also had a positively-altered perception of telemedicine itself. Engaging in structured telemedicine training actually changed students’ views on how telemedicine could improve their professional lives. These findings are monumental for university programs, given that 40-50% of medical schools do not currently have telemedicine instruction in their curriculum (Lavergne & Kennedy, 2021). 

Sometimes surveying student needs and interests can shape educational programs. According to a study released by Edrippulige et al. (2020), 68% of medical students who took part in a similar survey wished that their curriculum included telemedicine education. The authors of the study noted how medical students preferred telemedicine instruction that was incorporated directly into their preexisting coursework—a trend that could change the future of telepsychiatry pedagogy.

The flexibility of telehealth has also encouraged medical students to take greater control over their own personal mental health symptoms. Researchers have shown the importance of self-care routines when participating in an emotionally, physically, and financially-demanding curriculum. 

A 2019 study by Fischbein and Bonfire revealed a significant disparity between the general public’s stress levels and medical students of a similar age. In their study, 25% of surveyed medical students had considered suicide, while 11% had seriously contemplated taking their own life. Psychological vulnerability was related to other mental health problems, such as substance use, depression, anxiety, and emotional burnout (Lavergne & Kennedy, 2021). When taken at face value, these findings are staggering enough. But as Lavergne & Kennedy (2021) indicated, telemedicine services can bring psychological relief by reducing barriers of access, the stigma of seeking care, scheduling challenges, and financial strain.

One of the greatest challenges for universities is finding a suitable organization to teach competency-based telemedicine coursework (Lavergne & Kennedy, 2021). Training programs that pair experiential learning with a knowledgeable instructor help students and clinicians master the evolving standards and best practices in telemedicine. At the Telehealth Certification Institute, experiential learning is integrated into our courses to help students feel equipped and confident in providing real-world telehealth services. 

The Telehealth Certification Institute provides telehealth training that is customized for the specific needs of universities and graduate students. Please contact us to hear how we can best support your program and students.

 

By Michael Tugendhat 

 

Sources: 

Edrippulige, S., Gong, S., Hathurusinghe, M., Jhetam, S., Kirk, J., Lao, H., Leikvold, A., Ruelcke, J., Yau N. C., Zhang, Q., Armfield, N., Senanayake, B., Zhou, X., Smith, A. C., Judd, M. M., & Coulthard, M. G. (2020). Medical students’ perceptions and expectations regarding digital health education and training: A qualitative study. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 0(0), 1-8. [Description: Research on student perceptions of telemedicine training].

Fischbein R, & Bonfine N. (2019). Pharmacy and medical students’ mental health symptoms, experiences, attitudes and help-seeking behaviors. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 83(10), 2204–2215. [Description: Attitudes of medical students seeking mental health treatment for their symptoms].

Lavergne, J. A., & Kennedy, M. L. (2021). Telepsychiatry and medical students: A promising mental health treatment for medical student use both personally and professionally. Current Psychiatry Reports, 23(6), 31-37. [Description: How telepsychiatry benefits medical students]. 

Walker, C., Echternacht, H., & Brophy, P. D. (2019). Model for medical student introductory telemedicine education. Telemedicine and e-Health, 25(8), 717-723. [Description: Study highlighting telemedicine education for medical students].

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