Addicted to mobile health? Telepsychiatry to the rescue!

Dr. Joseph Kvedar of Boston’s Center for Connected Health counted himself in this Editor’s camp as annoyed by the mHealth hype (inflicted by those we’ve dubbed the D3HDigital Health Hypester Horde), and far more of a believer in SMS for health programs. His blog post is a ‘kind of edge’ towards thinking that mHealth can be habit-forming. In the CCH’s own clinical trials, more participants have smartphones (tracking the general population’s adoption) even with the lag among those with chronic disease (maybe a question of affordability?) and want apps. And then he sees the pattern of people checking their smartphone obsessively, like budgies with bells and mirrors….along with a study that indicates that patients with a passive sensor to upload blood glucose measurement, rather than pushing a button, were “significantly more adherent to their plan and had better health outcomes.” Not having to do something in the Diabetic’s Perpetual Battle of Stalingrad is addictive? Well, this is edging towards a nomination for ‘What in the Blue Blazes?” Could mobile health become addictive? (CHealth Blog) Hat tip to reader Bob Pyke via Twitter

Well, we can send Dr. K to a connected psychiatrist for a session of e-therapy. Cheap and secure, HIPAA-compliant video on smartphones and especially tablets, is helping telepsychiatry become more widespread in behavioral health.  The need is also outstripping the supply of psychiatrists in the US, with 25 percent of adults (according to this article–no citation) having one or more disorders in any given year. It’s also expensive: $300 billion per year is spent on direct and indirect costs of serious mental illnesses. Yet few med school graduates–4 percent–choose psychiatry residencies, and those in practice are beginning to age out of practice–over 50 percent are over 55. Why? A major reason is that insurance reimbursement rates are low (behavioral health is considered by most health plans as a money-loser) and filled with hassles. Perhaps if cross-state licensing can be solved along with better, simpler reimbursement, the specialty can be more popular. iHealthBeat takes the optimistic view that Telepsychiatry Poised To Take Off, but Obstacles Remain. Belated hat tip to Ellen Fink-Samnick of Ellen’s Ethical Lens.

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