Can an Online Psychiatrist Prescribe Medication?
The short answer is, Yes! Online Psychiatrists who went to medical school and have an active license in your state do prescribe medication. But there is a lot more to online psychiatry (also called telepsychiatry or telemedicine) that you should know.
What is Online Psychiatry, or Telepsychiatry?
Telemedicine is a method or process of delivering health care from a distance through online technology, often using videoconferencing. Desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones are all potential devices that can handle the virtual doctor visit, and psychiatry is one of the most obvious choices to safely and effectively. So, yes an online psychiatrist can prescribe medications that you may need to treat any issues that they feel need medications.
Psychiatry is one of the specialties that lends itself to video or phone consults because physical exams are not necessary to diagnose and manage almost all psychiatric conditions. And, any medication that can be prescribed in person can be prescribed via telepsychiatry. One particular benefit of telepsychiatry as it relates to prescription medication is the ability to record the sessions so that information about the drugs and side effects can be reviewed at any time in the future. Electronic transmission of the prescription is instantaneous so that a pick-up or home delivery can be scheduled quickly.
Telepsychiatry can involve providing a range of services, including direct psychiatric evaluations, therapies such as individual, group, and family therapy, as well as patient education and medication management. Emergency rooms are particularly well-suited to utilize telepsychiatry because many ERs do not have a psychiatrist ‘on-call’ or available to attend to the patient in person.
Benefits of Online Psychiatry
Video-based telepsychiatry sessions are affordable and readily-accessible for almost any mental health condition. The following are the benefits of electronic mental health services.
- Improve access to mental health specialty care especially in rural areas
- Care comes to the patient’s location in the same state
- Reduce trips to the emergency room
- Reduce delays in care
- Improve continuity of care and follow-up especially with primary care doctors, leading to better outcomes
- Reduce the need for time off work and childcare services since people do not take their children to doctor visits—in general
- Reduce the potential lack of transportation or the need for long drives
- Reduce the stigma barrier
- Allows psychiatrists to evaluate and care for more patients over extended hours
Most people are comfortable and more relaxed talking to someone else on a screen, which may make it easier to be open in their own home or another healthcare facility like an ER. People feel safer in their homes and like the privacy that online psychiatry offers.
Psychiatrists and other clinicians need to be licensed in the state(s) where the patient lives. State licensing boards and legislatures view the location of the patient as the place where “the practice of medicine” occurs. According to the American Telemedicine Association, as of 2016, thirty-two states have enacted laws to have telepsychiatric services covered by insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare. This means that an online psychiatrist can prescribe medications and it will be covered by medicaid or medicare in those states if the online psychiatrist accepts those insurances.
There are substantial research articles and clinical evidence of the effectiveness of online psychiatry. Telepsychiatry is as accurate as an in-person visit for diagnostic correctness, treatment effectiveness, quality of care, and patient satisfaction. Patients of all ages report favorable impressions of telepsychiatry. People with severe anxiety or autism may benefit even more due to the private and less stressful home environment.
Dr. Sean Paul, MD is an online psychiatrist who prescribes medications and does therapy and other services via telepsychiatry to treat things like anxiety, ADHD, depression, and more.