Jiaqi Feng


Introduction: Many individuals suffering from mental illnesses remain undiagnosed due to accessibility barriers. Emerging trends in telemedicine offer innovative solutions to these challenges: remote healthcare delivery such as videoconferencing eliminates the effort and cost of commuting, allowing patients access to mental health care from the comfort of their homes. This literature review examined patients meeting diagnosis criteria for a mental disorder and receiving treatment either in-person or online, with the goal of comparing treatment outcomes, satisfaction, and reliability.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature search directly related to telemedicine as a treatment to mental disorders using PubMed databases, Embase, MEDLINE, and Web of Science databases between database inception to February 2023. All peer-reviewed manuscripts on outcome, reliability, and patient satisfaction on the topic were included. Secondary research, cross-benefit analyses, and summaries of trends were excluded. The results of each study, intervention methods, demographic, and attrition were summarized on Excel.

Results: Out of 2034 articles found in the literature search conducted on PubMed, Embase, MEDLINE, and Web of Science databases between inception and February 2023, 25 studies that directly relate to telemedicine as a treatment for mental disorders were included. Most of them found no significant differences in outcome and satisfaction between both delivery modalities. Two studies examined the inter-rater reliability of diagnoses between delivery methods, but one reported no significant differences while the other found a significantly higher correlation between the scores of two raters for telemedicine patients.

Discussion: The current literature suggest that telemedicine is at least comparable to in-person healthcare in terms of outcome, as most of the reviewed studies found insignificant differences between the two delivery modalities. However, inter-rater reliability of psychiatric interviews using telemedicine and in-person modalities remain uncertain due to the limited number of studies on the topic and the contradicting results of the two papers addressing this issue.

Conclusion: Telemedicine may serve as a cost-effective and time-saving method for interventions that do not require the patient to be on-site. Further research comparing clinical interviews and diagnoses between raters from both modalities should be conducted to establish a larger body of evidence on reliability.

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